Supermassive Cargo Ship Grounds Itself in the Suez Canal, Forces World Shipping Back to 17th Century Routes


In his two-year voyage from 1497 to 1499, the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama revolutionized international trade by linking Europe and Asia via the Cape of Good Hope.

Sailing around the Cape was the main avenue of trade between these two regions until the construction of the Suez Canal during the mid-nineteenth century, which made international trade and travel more efficient.

Unfortunately, it appears as if we’re about to spend a week in the fifteenth century.

According to the New York Times, one of the world’s largest container ships, the Ever Given, has managed to get stuck horizontally in the middle of the canal. Currently, efforts to dislodge the Ever Given are expected to take several days, perhaps even as long as a week.

This means that companies engaging in international shipping have a difficult decision to make.

How long will it be until the Suez Canal is back to normal?

Do they wait for an indefinite amount of time to use the Canal, or do they sail around the Cape of Good Hope, which could quite possibly add a significant number of days to a ship’s voyage, but also keep supplies moving consistently and predictably?

“It is like choosing the queue at the post office; it is never the right decision,” Alex Booth, head of research at Kpler, a petroleum shipping firm, told the Times in an interview.

The reaction from the Twitterverse was a combination of amusement and bemusement:

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As ridiculous as this nautical traffic jam may seem on the surface, the consequences are potentially serious. For an unclear amount of time, supplies and resources will be delayed.

Subsequently, NBC News reported that it is reasonable to expect that “anything you see in stores” could see an uptick in prices. Oil prices may go up as well, a daunting prospect when the Biden administration has already declared war on the industry.

American consumers may have a tough few weeks ahead of them as a result of this mishap.

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Hopefully, the Ever Given will soon be set free, allowing for business-as-usual to resume. Vasco da Gama’s voyage is something that we should read about in history books, not something we should be emulating.

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