9 March: Suez Canal, Egypt

“This was the result of successful push and tow maneuvers which led to the restoration of 80% of the vessel’s direction; with the stern 102 m. away from the bank of the Canal now instead of 4 m. prior to the refloating,” the Suez Canal Authority said. It was then positioned into the navigable waterway of the canal, where it was able to continue to a lake for inspection. The world watched as the situation with the 400 meter Ever Given container ship became stuck diagonally in the canal and remained so for six days while other vessels backed up in both directions waiting for it to clear. Experts say the canal is treacherous to pass and that the containers onboard stacked high can act as a sail, catching the wind and moving the ship. The winds were reported to be high at the time of the incident in which the Ever Given became stuck, even though they had the obligatory help of a Suez Crew – a local team with specific knowledge of tricky parts of the canal. Indeed, the Egyptian government requires ships to have a canal pilot or team come aboard, experts who know the canal intimately and can pilot it through. Reports say there were two canal pilots from the Suez Canal Authority aboard when the ship ran aground. As the canal authorities and experts from around the world worked to devise plans to free the ship, the backlog of others waiting to get through the canal grew from a dozen to more than a hundred to ultimately more than 300. Concerns about the cargo of the ships waiting for passage rose each day. Cargo included live animals, food products, consumer good and oil, among many other things. A report in the January 2014, Volume 7, Issue 1 of the CTC Sentinel entitled, “Attacks in the Suez: Security of the Canal at Risk?” by Stephen Starr states that “while security in the bordering Sinai Peninsula remains transient and the Egyptian state appears unable to stamp out militant activity in the Sinai, terrorist groups would have to employ new tactics to sink vessels if their goal was to block the canal for any period of time. Yet such tactics are not beyond their reach, and previous incidents of maritime terrorism could serve as their guide.” The report also explains that closure of the Suez Canal “would add an estimated 2,700 miles of transit from Saudi Arabia to the United States around the Cape of Good Hope via tanker.” While the world watched and waited, the threat of compromised security increased hourly. Ultimately, there was no security breach, however, the event did highlight the chokepoint that the Suez becomes when blocked and the need for additional security-related planning in the event another similar occurrence happens in the future.