Port of Antwerp concerned about effects of Suez Canal blockage

Port of Antwerp concerned about effects of Suez Canal blockage
The Vessel Tracker website shows exactly how the container ship lies in the canal.

The Port of Antwerp is standing by for major disruption if the current blockage of the Suez Canal lasts much longer, according to Annick De Ridder (N-VA), Antwerp city councillor for port affairs.

Traffic in the canal has been suspended after the 400m-long container ship Ever Given ran aground on Tuesday, blocking ships in both directions. Passage was impossible as rescue boats were awaited.

They succeeded in turning the ship and moving it to the side, but authorities said traffic would only return to normal once the Ever Given had been moved out of the way entirely.

About 50 ships pass through the canal daily, and it is a crucial link in trade between Europe and Asia, allowing ships to avoid the lengthy circumnavigation of the African continent.

Once the problems have been resolved, those ships will all arrive at the Western European ports with a delay. That will also lead to congestion here,” De Ridder said. “Moreover, it also has an impact on the return of empty containers to Asia. So there will probably be an impact, but it is too early to say how big it will be.”

Containers take up space, and any container that is not being used is a cost, so logistics companies try as far as possible to keep down-time to a minimum. And if containers arrive late at Antwerp, Rotterdam or any other port, then the empty containers waiting at the port will return late to where they are needed.

The remedy – to have lots of spare containers waiting at all the ports in the world – would be ruinously expensive.

The accident is thought to have been caused by high winds which caught the huge wall of containers – the Ever Given stands 57m clear of the water – like a gigantic sail, turning it sideways and forcing it to run into the canal bank.

The force generated by the wind would have unintentionally altered the heading of the vessel,” one experienced captain told the Guardian.

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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