Suez canal blocked after massive container ship breaks down

One of the world’s largest container ships has blocked the Suez canal causing a massive traffic jam after breaking down while transiting the major shipping lane. 

The MV Ever Given is classed as an ultra-large container ship and lost power before drifting across the entire width of the canal. 

The vessel, which is 1,312 feet long and weighs almost 200,000 tonnes was part of a 20-ship convoy heading north through the canal when it lost power and drifted across the entire waterway. 

The MV Ever Given, pictured, has blocked the entire width of the Suez Canal causing a massive traffic jam

The MV Ever Given, pictured, has blocked the entire width of the Suez Canal causing a massive traffic jam

The MV Ever Given, pictured, has blocked the entire width of the Suez Canal causing a massive traffic jam

The Ever Given was part of a 20-ship convoy heading north through the canal, from Suez Gulf into the Mediterranean

The Ever Given was part of a 20-ship convoy heading north through the canal, from Suez Gulf into the Mediterranean

The Ever Given was part of a 20-ship convoy heading north through the canal, from Suez Gulf into the Mediterranean 

Several tugs are assisting the Ever Given, which has been stuck for more than 12 hours

Several tugs are assisting the Ever Given, which has been stuck for more than 12 hours

Several tugs are assisting the Ever Given, which has been stuck for more than 12 hours 

Social media users soon noticed the delays caused by the Ever Green's mechanical problems

Social media users soon noticed the delays caused by the Ever Green's mechanical problems

Social media users soon noticed the delays caused by the Ever Green’s mechanical problems

The 15 vessels behind have to wait for the Ever Given to be cleared before they can continue their journey. 

Worse still, vessels planning to travel from the north are also halted because of the incident. 

The three-year-old vessel is owned by the major shipping company Evergreen.  

Data from Marine Traffic shows several tugs attending to the stricken vessel, though they have failed to pull it clear. 

The vessel is carrying cargo from Yantain, China to Rotterdam, Netherlands. 

It is understood, efforts to refloat the vessel will take place at 7am after the first attempts failed.  

Closing the 120-mile waterway for any length of time causes major issues for the distribution of cargo across the globe as the canal is used as a short cut linking Asia with Europe. 

In February 2019 the Suez Canal Authority announced 75 massive cargo vessels transited the waterway carrying 5.8 million tonnes on a single day. 

Officials on February 6, were able to guide 40 vessels from the Red Sea into the Mediterranean while 35 ships went south. 

On average, approximately 50 cargo vessels a day use the canal.  

The Suez Canal is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, connecting Europe with the Far East

The Suez Canal is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, connecting Europe with the Far East

The Suez Canal is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, connecting Europe with the Far East

What was the Suez Crisis 

The 1956 Suez Crisis was prompted by Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser who decided to nationalise the Suez Canal, which had been controlled for around a century by France and Britain. 

Israel used the instability to invade Egypt and move towards the strategically important canal. 

Britain and France sent troops to recapture the canal – claiming they wanted to return stability to the region – but in reality they wanted to force the collapse of Nasser’s government and regain strategic control of the waterway. 

The humiliation of the Suez crisis prompted Prime Minister Anthony Eden, pictured here in 1955 to resign after Britain was forced to withdraw from Egypt having lost the support of the United States

The humiliation of the Suez crisis prompted Prime Minister Anthony Eden, pictured here in 1955 to resign after Britain was forced to withdraw from Egypt having lost the support of the United States

The humiliation of the Suez crisis prompted Prime Minister Anthony Eden, pictured here in 1955 to resign after Britain was forced to withdraw from Egypt having lost the support of the United States

However, the United States refused to back Britain and France’s action, forcing them to withdraw after the Egyptians were backed by the Soviet Union. 

America threatened economic sanctions against Britain, France and Israel, forcing their withdrawal and their replacement by UN peacekeepers. 

The humiliation prompted the resignation of British Prime Minister Anthony Eden  

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Why is the Suez Canal so important? 

The Suez canal, which is around 120 miles long links the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean and is the shortest shipping route between the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. 

Before the canal, shipping from Europe either had to go overland or risk going around Cape Horn and the South Atlantic.  

In April 1859, construction of the canal officially begins, much of the work financed by France. 

It was opened for navigation on November 17, 1869 for vessels from all countries, although the British government later wanted to have an armed force in the area to protect shipping interests having picked up a 44 per cent stake in the canal in 1875. 

The Suez Canal links the Red Sea and the Mediterranean providing a short cut from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic

The Suez Canal links the Red Sea and the Mediterranean providing a short cut from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic

The Suez Canal links the Red Sea and the Mediterranean providing a short cut from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic 

From then, while nominally owned by Egypt, the canal was run by Britain and France until its until its nationalisation in 1956 . 

The nationalisation by Nasser saw Britain and France launched an abortive and humiliating bid to recapture the vital waterway. 

The canal was shut briefly following the attempted invasion. 

However, in 1967 the canal was shut for eight years following the Six Day war with Israel. 

Due to the instability in the region, the canal remained closed until 1975 – its longest ever closure, as the waterway had been mined and some vessels had been sunk in the main channel.  

The Suez Canal is actually the first canal that directly links the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.

In 2015 a new section of the canal opened, allowing vessels to traverse the waterway in both directions at the same time. 

Future plans will see the two-lane system extended across the entire network- doubling current capacity of the canal.  

 The largest cargo vessels pay more than £180,000 in tolls to traverse the canal. 

On average about 40-50 cargo vessels use the canal on a daily basis in a trip that takes around 11 hours, as speed along the waterway is limited to about 9kts to prevent the banks of the canal getting washed away. 

Along the canal there are emergency mooring slots so vessels can pull over if they are suffering a mechanical issue.  

When the canal first opened, the channel was approximately 26 feet deep and 72 feet wide at the bottom. The surface was between 200 and 300 feet wide to allow ships to pass. 

By the 1960s, dredging of the canal increased the depth to 40 feet and widened the waterway to allow larger vessels.   

Now, the minimum depth of the canal is 66feet, though this is been increased to 72 feet – allowing even larger vessels.  

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