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Suez blockage to cause ongoing problems despite traffic resuming

A logistics expert from the University of Salford expects lengthy impacts to the supply of key goods as a result of the Suez canal blockage, despite the Ever Given container ship being freed on 29 March.

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The grounding of the giant 200,000 tonne, 400m-long Ever Given blocked traffic on the canal for nearly a week before finally being re-floated following a frantic salvage effort.

More than 350 vessels had been stuck on either side of the blockage, with an estimated £7 billion of trade being held up each day.

Egyptian officials said that the backlog would take around three days to clear. However, experts believe that the knock-on impacts could take weeks or even months to resolve, and have warned that the cost of shipping goods to Europe in the near-term may rise.

Commenting just before the Ever Given was freed, Jonathan Owens, logistics expert from the University of Salford Business School, explained that unblocking the canal would not be the end of the saga:

“If the canal becomes unblocked, many ships that are going towards Europe will move the bottleneck there, because there will be a mass movement of ships all trying to get out of the canal and go in the same direction. 

“Therefore, for a period we will see a state of high congestion at our ports. Which are particularly slower due to the extra Covid procedures in places with the shipping containers. There will be no clear-cut product that will be impact[ed] rather a series of products, from toys and furniture to electrical items, and the canal is a choker and a main shipping supply route. Whatever the result will cause repercussion for a while in our supply chains.” 

Several media outlets have quoted the view of Paul Adams, Director of management consultancy Vindigital, who said:

“Western companies reliant on raw materials or parts from Asia should expect some disruption to deliveries over the next few weeks. The impact will vary by sector but many manufacturers are dealing with reduced volumes at present.

“The Suez canal blockage is yet another example of an unforeseen event causing significant supply chain disruption and it further underlines the importance of creating a more resilient operating structure.”

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