After almost a week of dredging, drigging and tugging — and with some help from the moon — salvage teams yesterday freed the giant container ship that had been stuck in the Suez Canal, one of the world’s most important shipping lanes.
As a result, traffic has resumed for the hundreds of ships waiting on both ends of the canal. And while estimates have varied wildly, the delay is also expensive. “The disruption has caused the canal authorities in Egypt losses of $ 95 million in revenue,” The Times’s Peter Goodman told me.
“It’s not just like flipping a switch,” Vivian Yee, the Times’s Cairo bureau chief, told me. Now that the ship is out of the way, the backlog will take at least a few days, maybe even weeks, to resolve.
High winds from a sandstorm caused the ship, the Ever Given, to turn sideways in the canal and get stuck, its operators said. But shipping experts have suggested that while the wind probably had a role in the crisis, human error might have, too.
Last year, almost 19,000 ships traveled through the canal without an accident, according to the chief of the Suez Canal Authority, the Egyptian agency that operates the waterway. And high winds aren’t unusual in the area. “We’ve seen worse winds,” Ahmad al-Sayed, a security guard, told The Times, “but nothing like that ever happened before.”
The crews working to dig out the ship were largely dependent on forces beyond their control: the moon and the tides. The full moon on Sunday offered a few extra inches of tidal flow and gave workers the boost they needed to set the ship free.
Not a normal ship
It’s rare that a maritime disruption makes international news. But this was not your average mishap. For one, the Suez Canal isn’t like other waterways. “It is a vital channel linking the factories of Asia to the affluent customers of Europe, as well as a major conduit for oil,” Peter writes.
And the Ever Given is one of the world’s biggest container ships. “From a distance, it’s hard to comprehend how big it is,” Vivian told us. “From land, all the containers on top look like Legos — and then you realize each one of those Legos is 20 or 40 feet long.”
The crisis highlights a vulnerability of our interconnected world, Peter told us: “We have built a global distribution network that relies on goods getting where they are needed just as they are needed, with little margin for error.”
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For anyone who wants to help Chinese restaurants, Francis Lam, the host of “The Splendid Table,” offered a suggestion: “If you can, order yourself some Chinese takeout. Get extra. Leftovers are your friend.” In The Times, Bonnie Tsui has more tips for supporting restaurants. — David Leonhardt
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- ^ freed the giant container ship (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ the disruption isn’t over (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ human error might have, too (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ few extra inches of tidal flow (www.wsj.com)
- ^ Peter writes (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ a backlog (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ It took 10 years of hard labor (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ This is how giant container ships (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ began yesterday (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ two-minute video (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ Elizabeth Neumann (www.voanews.com)
- ^ Mary McCord and Jason Blazakis (www.lawfareblog.com)
- ^ Hina Shamsi (www.npr.org)
- ^ Nicole Narea (www.vox.com)
- ^ changing the way the sell works. (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ She died at 69 (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ suffered more (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ The Washington Post reported (www.washingtonpost.com)
- ^ closing early (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ Grace Young (posterhouse.org)
- ^ trying to call attention (www.grubstreet.com)
- ^ on a recent episode of “The Splendid Table,” (www.splendidtable.org)
- ^ more tips for supporting restaurants. (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ creamy asparagus pasta (cooking.nytimes.com)
- ^ short opera film (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ what happens when viewership plummets (www.nytimes.com)