Suez crisis might nix slow steaming
February 10, 2011 - SCMR Editorial
A potential closure of the Suez Canal caused by the political unrest in Egypt would have a serious impact on container shipping, note analysts at Alphaliner.
Although a closure of the Suez canal is improbable, the risk of a disruption of vessel traffic in the canal cannot be totally excluded, they say. This would have a huge impact on container shipping which represents the largest vessel segment currently transiting the canal.
Containerships currently account for 55 percent of the net tonnage and for 38 percent of the total number of vessels transiting the Suez Canal. The high tonnage share of the containership transit is due to the larger size of container vessels that pass the canal compared to other vessel types.
Currently there are at least 56 affected containership strings. By far the majority of these are weekly services. Out of the total, 46 strings concern Far East- Europe services. In other words, about seven or eight containerships transit the canal every day in each direction.
Should the situation worsen, the most obvious alternative would be to re-route ships via the Cape of Good Hope. This would mean a much longer journey and such a decision might be weighed against the prospects of seeing the canal reopen soon.
Alphaliner notes that the distance between Singapore and Rotterdam, for example, stands at 11,800 nautical miles via Cape of Good Hope against 8,300 nautical miles via the Suez.
A likely consequence: an additional seven days of 20 knots steaming (one way) and a much higher fuel bill.
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