Ever Given cargo ship Suez Canal

With the Ever Given Nearly Freed, Billions Could Be on the Line

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Mar. 29 2021, Published 10:50 a.m. ET

For six days, the Ever Given ship—an operation of Taiwanese company Evergreen Marine—was stuck in the Suez Canal. At 400 meters long and carrying nearly 44 million pounds, the ship is one of the largest container vessels in the world. For the global economy, those metrics could easily translate to money lost.

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But how much does this one ship really impact commerce for its own cargo and all that goes through the Suez Canal? 

Ever Given is carrying 18,300 cargo shipping containers.

ever given

There isn't any doubt that Ever Given has a full deck. There wasn't any way that workers would have been able to pull the ship out of the canal, even though it continued to block traffic through the highly popular pathway until freed. 

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With 18,300 shipping containers, there was just too much cargo. Instead, workers focused their efforts on refloating the ship using at least 11 tugboats and the help of the full moon's high tide. They maneuvered the ship into deeper water after it was beached mere feet from the sand to help them refloat it, although traffic remains blocked. Workers still aren't certain whether the ship's bow is freed. 

With the Ever Given ship stuck in the Suez Canal, billions were on the line.

How much money is really at stake with the Ever Given ship? It depends which way you look at it.

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First, there's the cargo itself, which could easily be worth millions. 

Then, there's all the cargo that's blocked in the Suez Canal as a result of the ship blocking the pathway. This number is in the billions. According to Lloyd's List, a maritime intelligence organization, the Suez Canal is responsible for $5.1 billion of westbound cargo each day, with another $4.5 billion coming eastbound. That's a total of $9.6 billion on the line until the Ever Given is cleared. Traffic won't resume in the canal until the ship is completely freed.

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Finally, there's the issue of insurance if workers aren't able to salvage the goods after refloating. Cargo owners take out insurance policies on their cargo, and there are numerous parties with goods on board. The ship's owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd. of Japan, is reportedly responsible for losses under these circumstances, but the company said that cargo owners would have to refer to their own insurance plans, of which there could be thousands.

Wherever the responsibility may lie, thousands of insurance claims would be in question if the ship failed to free from the canal. That isn't even including the ship itself, which could be covered for upwards of $200 million

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With the Suez Canal ship freed, what's next?

After six days of being stuck in the Suez Canal, the ship changed direction and ultimately refloated. It seems like the efforts are paying off and fate is changing course, although the pathway is still blocked.

As for where Ever Given is going next, workers plan to tow the ship once they're able to. The destination is a place called Great Bitter Lake, which is situated within the Suez Canal between the Mediterranean and Red Seas. This will allow traffic to resume in the canal, although it will take time to unblock traffic completely.

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