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Videos/Pics: Massive container ship stuck in Suez Canal causes one of the largest-ever ship traffic jams

Column of ships along the Suez Canal. (patano @ Panaramio/Wikimedia Commons)
March 24, 2021

A massive Taiwanese container ship blocked the Suez Canal on Wednesday, causing one of the largest ship traffic jams in one of the world’s busiest ship travel routes.

The 1,312-foot Ever Given container ship became grounded reportedly after wind contributed to pushing the ship sideways, wedging its bow in one side of the canal. More than 100 ships remain blocked from transiting the canal, ship trackers and brokers said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Photos posted to social media show the 200-foot-wide ship turned sideways in the canal.

The ship’s bow can be see bulging from being lodged into the side of the canal.

Tugboats and heavy equipment were brought in to begin work on dislodging the Ever Given.

Videos show many waiting ships scattered nearby.

Ever Given is a Panama-flagged ship operated by the Taiwanese company Evergreen Marine. It is a Golden-class container ship, which is one of the largest in the world.

Social media users reacted to the news with “bad day” humor and memes, including one that imposed Ever Given’s image on a short clip from the 1997 film Austin Powers: The International Man of Mystery in which the character Austin Powers (played by Mike Meyers) attempts a three-point turn maneuver on a luggage cart in a narrow tunnel, ultimately ending with the cart lodged sideways.

The Suez Canal is considered one of the world’s most important and most traveled waterways, as it is the fastest means of traveling between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. In 2019, nearly 19,000 ships transited the canal with more than one billion tons of cargo, according to the Suez Canal Authority.

U.S. Navy ships frequently pass through the canal, though it’s unclear if any Navy ships are currently affected by the incident.

This week’s incident comes just two years after Ever Green collided with a ferry boat near the Port of Hamburg, Germany. High winds were also suspected to have been a factor in that incident, and waterway traffic on the Elbe river was halted shortly after, according to local German media Morgen Post at the time.

The most significant interference of ship traffic in the Suez Canal took place between 1967 and 1975 when 15 ships became trapped during the Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt. At the time, both ends of the canal were shut down by sinking vessels and placing sea mines so that ships would be unable to transit the waterway.

When the canal reopened in 1975, only two of the 15 trapped ships were able to leave the canal after the eight-year ordeal under their own power.