Backlog at Suez Canal will take several days to clear, global complications longer

The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said early on Monday March 29th, before the Ever Given was fully refloated, that it would be able to accelerate convoys through the canal once the Ever Given was freed. “We will not waste one second,” Rabie told Egyptian state television.

He said it could take up to three days to clear the backlog. It was reported that more than 100 ships would be able to enter the channel daily. This compares with an average throughput of 50 vessels per day under normal circumstances.

However, Denmark-based shipping company Maersk said that the knock-on disruptions to global shipping could take weeks or even months to unwind.

Around 30% of the world’s shipping container volume moves through the 120 mile-long Suez Canal daily.

“Even when the canal gets reopened, the ripple effects on global capacity and equipment are significant,” Maersk said in a customer advisory on Monday.

Maersk had three vessels stuck in the canal and another 29 waiting to enter, it said, adding that it had so far rerouted 15 vessels to sail round the Cape of Good Hope.

“Assessing the current backlog of vessels, it could take six days or more for the complete queue to pass,” said Maersk. This was possiblya  more realistic estimate than the three days stated by the SCA.

Switzerland-based MSC had previously said that the situation was “going to result in one of the biggest disruptions to global trade in recent years,” adding that “unfortunately, even when the canal re-opens for the huge backlog of ships waiting at anchorage this will lead to a surge in arrivals at certain ports and we may experience fresh congestion problems”.

Caroline Becquart, Senior Vice President with MSC said that “we envisage the second quarter of 2021 being more disrupted than the first three months, and perhaps even more challenging than it was at the end of last year.”