April 2021

Cargo Ship Ever Given Blocks Suez Canal


Tugboats and land crews work to free the Ever Given cargo ship.

On March 23, 2021, a massive container ship named Ever Given became wedged across a narrow part of the Suez Canal. At 1,300 feet, the ship is almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall. The Ever Given ran aground due to low visibility caused by a sandstorm. It was stuck for six days before crews could break it free.

Historians believe that the first canal in this part of Egypt was dug around 1850 BCE. It was called the Canal of the Pharaohs. Additional attempts to build a canal were made in the 1400s, 1600s, and 1700s. However, it was not until around 1800 that the first survey, or land study, of the area was made. Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of France at the time, personally came to inspect the remains of the ancient canal. Construction began on the Suez Canal we know today in 1859. The waterway was officially opened on November 17, 1869.

The Suez Canal is still a vital trade passage and one of the world’s most heavily used shipping routes. It runs north to south across the Isthmus of Suez in Egypt, along the border between Africa and Asia. It connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. It is also the shortest ocean route between countries in Europe and countries in Asia.

Fifteen ships were stuck behind Ever Given while crew members worked to free the ship. More than 400 other ships were delayed by the blockage. Estimates suggest that $400 million per hour in international trade was held up while the canal was blocked.

The effort to dislodge the 224,000-ton ship required 13 tugboats. Tugboats are small but powerful ships that are often used to guide and move larger ships. In addition, workers on the land and in the water had to dig up more than 1 million cubic feet of mud and sand to finally free the Ever Given.

Investigators have started examining the ship’s black box to find out more information about how it got stuck. A black box, or voyage data recorder, collects all of the data from a ship. This data can be used to study how well a ship runs and to improve safety. In the case of the Ever Given, the data can also be used to investigate an accident. Initial research has ruled out mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the accident.

Question 1
What makes the Suez Canal an important trade passage? 

Question 2
How big is the Ever Given?

Question 3
How many cubic feet of mud and sand did crews have to dig up in order to free the Ever Given?

image credit: © -/Suez Canal Authority/dpa

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