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Ever Given and the Suez Canal

Rerouting all container services from Suez Canal would need 6% of global capacity

Photo: SCA SCA_Ever_Given2.jpg
A view from the deck of a vessel assisting with efforts to free Ever Given.
An extended blockage of the Suez Canal forcing container lines to reroute all services via the Cape of Good Hope would require an additional 6% of global fleet capacity according to analysts Sea Intelligence.

As Seatrade Maritime News reported on Saturday container lines have already started to reroute Asia – Europe and Asia – US East Coast services via the Cape of Good Hope, a significantly longer route than transiting the Suez Canal. In its weekly report SeaIntel analysed what the impact of an extended blockage of the waterway would have on container shipping capacity.

SeaIntel worked on the basis of vessels sailing at 17 knots adding seven days to a Singapore to Rotterdam voyage, 10 days to West Mediterranean, a little over two weeks to East Mediterranean and between 2.5 – 4.5 days to the US East Coast.

Based on what SeaIntel described as “production capacity” of 19.6m teu days from a nominal global fleet capacity of 24.4m teu there would be an additional capacity requirement of 1m teu per day to transit the longer distances.

“Hence, all in all, in order to re-route the cargo around Africa – or through Panama in some cases for the Asia-US East Coast – this will absorb an amount of carrying capacity equal to 6% of the globally available capacity,” said SeaIntel CEO Alan Murphy.

“Converting this into a nominal fleet equivalent, then 6% of the global fleet is equal to 1.48m teu of capacity – the same as 74 ultra-large 20,000 teu container vessels.”

Increasing capacity in the Asia – Europe/Med and US East Coast trades could in part be achieved by cascading capacity from other services. However, it comes at a time when capacity is already at a premium and the charter market has effectively been maxed out due the surge in demand the second half of 2020 and resulting congestion and equipment shortages. Therefore any cascading of tonnage would impact other services and trades.

Speeding up is the other option, which would increase costs, due to higher bunker consumption, as well as increasing the environmental impact of operations.

“This can partially alleviate the problem, but far from solve it. In this case, increasing speed from 17 to 20 knots would reduce the impact on the global fleet from 6% to 5.2%. Going full throttle at 22 knots would still only reduce the impact to 4.8%,” Murphy said.