It is not often that shipping freight makes the lead headline in the evening news, especially during a pandemic, but the hitherto anonymous Ever Given has gained a degree of notoriety in the past week.
The sight of the 220,000 tonne ship stuck fast against the banks of the Suez Canal after a storm not only made the headlines and provided startling pictures; while many internet memes reflected on the metaphor for the state of the world, the issue left many firms seeking alternative freight logistics solutions.
While some decided to wait for the ship to be freed and put up with the backlog of hundreds of vessels, others, such as Maersk, ended up taking the drastic step of doing what everyone had to do from the days of Vasco de Gama until the Suez Canal was dug, by diverting all the way around the Cape of Good Hope.
The incident certainly demonstrated the importance of certain key waterways in the global freight shipping sector, with considerable relief that the blockage did not last longer. Already, the investigation has started into how the event could have happened and the possibility of litigation is a real one as insurers grapple with the cost.
It is not just the Suez Canal where a blockage could be extremely disruptive. The same would be true if any similar problem happened to the Panama Canal.
On a somewhat lesser scale, the south of England has just seen its own Ever Given incident. The 260ft cargo ship Elise became wedged in the tidal mud of Littlehampton Harbour at the mouth of the River Adur at 3.30 AM on March 30th, after breaking loose from its moorings.
Thankfully, unlike the Ever Given it wasn’t stuck for long, as shortly after 1 PM it was able to float free without assistance as the tide came in.