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TBA EXPLAINER: What is happening in the Suez Canal & why is the world going nuts over it?

Workers will offload an undisclosed number of the 18,000 containers aboard the skyscraper-size ship grounded sideways in the Suez Canal, in an effort to lighten and remove it from one of the world’s busiest shipping routes, the Suez Canal.
 
Removal preparations were ordered by Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, according to news reports. 
 
So, what is happening in the Suez?
 
The 1,312-foot, 200,000 metric ton  ship named Ever Given — nearly a quarter-mile long — created a shipper’s nightmare and captured the public’s imagination when it blocked the canal on last Tuesday. It gas created a traffic jam of more than 300 ships as of Sunday and is costing billions in delayed shipments. 
 
Officials had hoped to free the vessel by dredging tons of sand and using tugboats to push it free during a high tide but efforts on Friday and Saturday failed. It is reported that 13 tugs are at the site. The ship’s bow is on the eastern bank and the stern is on the western. That means it's sagging in the middle, putting increased stress on the hull, which is made worse by tidal changes. Officials say the hull is being inspected for cracks.
 
As tugboats and dredgers keep working, special cranes and equipment will be brought to the carrier. Containers will be moved to a different ship or the canal bank, an operation that could take days to complete.
 
How did it even happen?
 
The Ever Given is stuck near the Egyptian city of Suez, about 3.7 miles north of the canal’s southern entrance. It’s in a single-lane section of the canal, about 985 feet wide. Its owners originally said high winds in a sandstorm pushed the ship sideways, wedging it into both banks of the waterway. Containers stacked on deck may have acted as a sail.
 
However, the chairman of Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority said Saturday, without giving details, that weather conditions “were not the main reasons” for the grounding, and that “there may have been technical or human reasons,” the BBC reported. An investigation is ongoing.
 
Traffic at sea?

 
At least 300 ships, carrying everything from cars to oil to grain, wait at the canal’s northern and southern entrances. An analysis by data firm Refinitiv showed an additional 300 ships were en route to the canal over the next two weeks. Some ships have already diverted to the African route.
 
Meanwhile, U.S. Navy has offered dredging experts to assist. Authorities originally disagreed on how long the canal will be blocked. The ship’s owner, Shoei Kisen, said its goal was to free the vessel by the night of March 27. However, the CEO of a dredging company later has said the operation could take weeks.
 
The uncertainty has forced some shippers to alter course and take the longer, alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, adding weeks to their destinations and increasing fears of piracy. Officials are under great pressure to remove the ship.
 
The canal is a 120-mile-long shipping link between the Mediterranean and Red seas that carries 10% to 12% of commercial shipping and about 2.5% of the world’s oil. A German insurer said delays could cost global trade $6 billion to $10 billion a week. 
 
The blockage could worsen shipping delays and cause shortages of toilet paper, coffee and other goods. GlobalSecurity.org calls the canal “strategically and economically one of the most important waterways in the world.”
 
Who owns the canal?
 
The Suez Canal is operated by Egypt, through its state-owned Suez Canal Authority. Canal revenue for Egypt was $5.6 billion in 2020, according to Arab News. On average, about 50 ships pass through the canal daily. 
 
It opened in 1869. It’s a sea-level canal, without locks, connecting major bodies of water at different altitudes. It normally takes a ship 13 to 15 hours to cross from one end to the other. It's been widened over the years, with the latest project in 2015 at a cost of $8 billion.
 
The Panama-flagged ship, Ever Given, was built in 2018 and is operated by Evergreen Marine of Taiwan. It can carry 20,000 20-foot containers and transports cargo between Asia and Europe. It has a crew of 25.
 
The 1,312-foot ship is often compared to the Empire State Building, which is 1,454 feet tall, including its spire and antenna.
As authorities scramble to free the vessel, the world watches in anticipation. Despite the serious implications of the jam, some on social media have been making light of the situation where several memes and jokes are doing rounds. 

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