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Suez Canal: What you need to know about Ever Given, the ship that blocked the passage

Divers and tugboats are trying to disloge the giant vessel, but it may be weeks before it can set sail again
Egyptian tugboats trying to help free one of the biggest vessels in the world from the banks of the Suez canal, on 25 March 2021 (Suez Canal/AFP)

A megaship, one of the largest on earth, has been wedged across one of the world’s most important trade routes for two days, blocking hundreds of other boats and disrupting global supply chains.

Divers and a flotilla of tugboats are currently trying to free the cargo ship, the Ever Given, from one of the banks of the storied canal.

But one of the companies trying to help refloat the vessel, which ran aground at around 6.30pm GMT on Tuesday, said yesterday that it may not be dislodged for weeks.

Here’s what you need to know about the ship and why this story matters.

How big is the Ever Given?

At 400 metres long and 59 metres wide, the Ever Given is twice the size of Egypt’s Cairo tower, and just under half the size of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world.

Ever Green height

Still, it was nimble enough to draw an unmistakable shape in the Red Sea before entering the canal. 

Who owns the vessel?

A Japanese firm, Shoei Kisen Kaisha, owns the ship. On Thursday, it apologised for the massive delays caused by the blockage.

The Ever Green is currently being operated by a Taiwanese transport company called Evergreen Marine, based in Panama.

It is reportedly insured for up to $140m.

When was it built?

The giant vessel was built in 2018, and has the capacity for 20,000 20-foot shipping containers. It is worth approximately $170m.

Evergreen’s founder, Chang Yung-fa, opposed operating ships able to hold any more than 8,000 containers, according to The Telegraph. But after his death in 2016, his sons - the heirs to his shipping dynasty - decided to refocus the firm on running megaships like the Ever Given.

In 2019, Evergreen reportedly revealed plans to build and charter ships with capacity for up to 23,000 containers.

Where is it heading?

The boat set out from Yantian in China on 7 March, then stopped off for a day at the port of Tanjung Pelepas in Malaysia, before sailing to Suez Port in Egypt on 22 March.

It is currently estimated to arrive in Rotterdam on 31 March according to Vessel Finder, though that now seems unlikely.

What’s at stake?

The Ever Given may have turned into an unlikely wellspring for internet memes, but the incident could prove to be a disaster for an already stretched system of global supply, with at least 150 ships now reportedly waiting on either side of the "beached whale".

Global oil prices increased by more than six percent on Wednesday, before falling slightly on Thursday.

It is unclear at this point exactly what the vessel is carrying, but shipping logistics experts told NBC that “basically anything you see in stores” could be affected by the incident, including potential delays to food, clothes and electronics.

“Every port in western Europe is going to feel this,” Leon Willems, a spokesman for Rotterdam Port, told Reuters.

An estimation by Lloyd’s List suggests that the Ever Given may be holding up cargo - travelling both up and down the canal - worth almost $10bn.

Thankfully, the ship’s 25-person all-Indian crew are all unharmed, according to the vessel's owners.