Multiple shipping companies are reportedly contacting the U.S Navy about the potential risks of piracy for ships traveling around Africa to avoid the blocked Suez Canal, the Financial Times reported Friday, amid growing concerns that the sky-scraper-sized ship may end up blocking one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes for weeks.
With the Suez Canal blocked, ships can either drop anchor and wait or take a lengthy detour, most likely around Africa.
The region has a well-documented history of piracy, with attacks jumping in 2020 according to the watchdog the International Maritime Bureau, and many shipping companies are reportedly calling the U.S. Navy to highlight companies’ security concerns should ships with billions of dollars worth of cargo make the trip, the Financial Times reported.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet confirmed to the FT that the Suez jam had prompted several inquiries from global shipping companies “over maritime security in the region.”
Several shipping associations confirmed the pirate-related concerns, with the chair of the Hong Kong Shippers’ Council, Willy Lin, telling the FT that naval warships might be required to safeguard ships in the area.
Forbes has reached out to the U.S., EU, and U.K. naval forces for comment, alongside a number of the world’s largest shipping companies, including Denmark’s Maersk, Swiss-Italian MSC and China’s COSCO.
“A very heavy beached whale.” This is how Peter Berdowski, the chief executive of Royal Boskalis Westminster, the company appointed by Ever Given’s owner to help move the vessel, described the stuck ship.
The Ever Given, a sky-scraper-sized container ship among the largest in the world, became wedged across the Suez Canal Tuesday, cutting off traffic on one of the world’s most important shipping routes. Despite early optimism that the ship could be dislodged within days, experts now believe it could be weeks until it can be moved, leaving shipping companies with difficult decisions and rising costs.
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A sizable fraction of global trade travels through the Egyptian canal, around 12%. Beyond the immediate impact of shipping delays, oil price rises, and spiking shipping costs, delayed traffic could snarl ports for the foreseeable future. Attention will soon turn to responsibility and insurance. Yumi Shinohara, vice manager of vessel management of the Japanese company that owns the ship, told CNN that at present they are “focusing on refloating/getting off the reef.”