Mother of all traffic jams causes security concerns at Suez Canal

A cargo ship has blocked the Suez Canal in Egypt, one of the most critical waterways in the world. Security and maritime experts warn that the vessels currently unable to pass through the canal may have to re-route through piracy zones off the coast of Africa.

It is thought that the canal could be blocked by the vessel for weeks. Shipping companies desperate to deliver their cargo have said that they will have to consider employing additional security officers should the ships have to re-route.

Ranjith Raja, head of MENA Oil & Shipping Research at Refinitiv, comments: “As of this morning until the end of March, there are at least 137 ships that are expected to be reaching either side of the Suez for the canal transit. This is in addition to the ships (around 200) that have already reached and have been waiting since yesterday. As more ships update their tracking (AIS) destination and ETA, further updates will become available.

“Despite ongoing efforts to unblock the channel, we’re looking at the mother of all traffic jams shipping-wise over the next week or so. It’s inevitable that we’ll see vessels choosing to divert via the southern tip of Africa adding to costs in terms of time and fuel. This also includes having to contend with the Piracy Zone, off the coast of Somalia, where ships need to factor in a security risk assessment to pass through or take the longer route around.”

According to a report in the Financial Times there has been a surge in kidnappings at sea in recent months as well as the ongoing threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

Around 12% of global trade comes through the canal making it is a critical route for commodities such as oil and gas as well as food stuffs.

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