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The blockade of the Suez Canal by a giant container ship caused alarm in international trade, but did not damage Egypt’s reputation, experts estimate.
On March 23, the container ship “Ever Given“, a 200,000-ton, 400-meter-long vessel, was stranded diagonally, blocking the channel through which 10% of international trade circulates for several days.
However, the fear that the blockade would last for several weeks proved unfounded.
On Monday, on the seventh day, the Panamanian-flagged vessel, owned by the Taiwanese company Evergreen Marine Corporation, was towed to the Great Bitter Lake, in the middle of the Suez Canal, leaving free circulation between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. .
On Monday, shortly after the ship was run aground, President Abdel Fatah al Sisi quickly vindicated the Egyptian “success.”
By order of Al Sisi, Egypt invested in the years 2014 and 2015 about 8,000 million dollars in the canal, a part destined to build a 35 km parallel road in the northern part.
– Egyptian government reacted “well” –
“The Egyptian government managed the blockade … exceptionally well, given the intense international pressure,” says Tony Munoz, editor-in-chief of Maritime Executive magazine.
Nonetheless, Munoz recognizes the key role of foreign specialists in operations.
The specialist highlighted in particular the experience contributed by Nick Sloane, from the specialized company Resolve Marine, who had already shone in the rescue of the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia that was shipwrecked in 2012 off the Tuscan coast of Italy.
For Angus Blair, professor of economics at the American University of Cairo, Egypt has the right to congratulate itself on the success of the rescue, “but that does not diminish the Dutch involvement” through the Smit Salvage society.
Blair and Munoz agree that the incident will not have a negative impact on Egypt’s part of maritime trade.
“It was actually a big car accident,” says Blair.
“Airports know accidents, but in a few hours they work again,” he adds. “I don’t think it will damage Egypt’s reputation,” he concludes.
Munoz rules out that transport companies choose to go around Africa via the Cape of Good Hope. “It’s not reasonable” because it adds 6,000 km to the Singapore-Rotterdam route, he says.
“The purpose of these mega-ships is to reduce scales and operating costs,” he explains.
– Responsibilities –
But “when oil prices drop to a certain level, the long route through the Cape of Good Hope is less burdensome,” says Yezid Sayigh of the Carnegie Middle East Center.
Sayigh says the canal expansion – based on an overly optimistic estimate of maritime traffic – was a mistake and that the decision to finish the works in one year rather than three doubled the initial budget.
The Suez Canal brought Egypt $ 5.7 billion in revenue in 2019-2020, not much more than in 2014 ($ 5.3 billion), the Suez Canal Authority said.
Figures that are far from the goal of 13,500 million in 2023, which led Al Sisi this week to reject the idea of widening the part of the channel where “Ever Given” ran aground.
The arbitration and litigation bodies must establish the responsibilities of the incident, points out the financial rating agency DBRS Morningstar.
Egyptian authorities must “be transparent to avoid tarnishing their reputation,” Sayigh warned, noting that they were not transparent in past incidents.