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Suez Canal still not back to normal — but it’s getting closer

Posted - April 9, 2021

Significant progress has been made in reducing the canal queue


The Ever Given was freed on March 29. Five days later, the managing director of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), Adm. Osama Rabie, declared that all the ships blocked by the accident had transited “in record time.” Numerous media outlets reported that the backlog had been cleared. End of story.

Well, not so fast.

If you define “Mission accomplished!” as getting every ship to the other side that was blocked by the Ever Given before it was refloated, it’s over.

If you define success as getting back to normal — as in the flow of traffic prior to the grounding of the Ever Given on March 24 — it’s getting closer to normal, it’s on a good path, but this is not over quite yet.

More ships at anchor than usual

Prior to the accident, the norm was for ships to arrive prior to 11 p.m. on the day before the scheduled transit, anchor overnight and then pass through the canal.

Jacob Guldager, branch manager and business development manager of Leth Agencies, told American Shipper, “The daily transit average [prior to the accident] is 52.7 vessels: 26.8 northbound and 25.9 southbound. This will be equal to a ‘normal’ waiting-at-the-anchorage-area situation.”

On Wednesday, nine days after the Ever Given was freed and four days after the SCA sounded the “all clear,” 105 ships were at anchor: 55 on the Mediterranean side, 50 on the Red Sea side. Still twice the normal level.

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