(Cover Image: Robert Schwemmer from Wikimedia Commons)
In an extraordinary turn of events this week, there are fears that global supply chains will be disrupted after one of the largest container ships in the world became grounded on its journey from China to Rotterdam, completely blocking the southern end of Egypt's Suez Canal on Tuesday...
The grounding of the vessel, the Ever Given, which is owned by a Taiwanese shipping company and is almost 100 metres longer than the Shard in London is tall, has sparked not only memes on Twitter, but also fears that the canal could be blocked for days, or even weeks to come.
Nearly fifty ships pass through the 120 mile long waterway between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean each day, and this amounts to nearly 10% of global sea trade.
Now, with the canal closed to traffic, many ships are beginning to re-route around Africa and the Cape of Good Hope, taking 7-10 days longer on average for each journey.
With the traffic jam behind the stuck ship rapidly building, there are efforts to free it, including dredging (where sand around the ship is shifted) and tugs attempting to pull the ship free.
Authorities are even considering bringing in cranes to remove some containers and lighten the load, with the intention that the ship will float higher in the water.
There are currently over 200 ships behind the Ever Given, and with fears that it will take days to clear the backlog even after the blockage is cleared, it makes sense that shipping companies are looking at alternatives.
This compounds an already difficult period of time for shipping, with slower handling times at ports and container shortages eating into profits and restricting supplies.