Stuck in Suez!

Just as Covid-19 was raging furiously throughout the world, affecting millions of people worldwide and the economies of almost all countries, the world came in a new dilemma on March 2021 when one of the world’s key shipping canals was disrupted by possibly one of the largest ships at sea.

Perhaps you think that the Titanic was the greatest disaster on sea till date? Well, then you probably haven’t heard about the Ever Given ship.

Although Titanic was one of the greatest ships of its time and costed around $200 million (adjusted for inflation) to build, the Ever Given ship disrupted billions of dollars in trade of numerous countries in just six days as it crashed and blocked the Suez Canal.

It was potentially the greatest economic casualty the world could bear.

Curious to know more about the Ever Given ship? Well, I’ve got you covered!

This article contains all you need to know about the Ever Given ship getting stuck in the Suez Canal.

What led to the crisis?

One wonders, how does a ship as large as Ever Given, which was 400 meters long and one of the largest cargo ships in the world, get stuck in the Suez Canal?

What has been discovered till now is that the Ever Given ship was diverted off its course by possibly heavy winds which resulted in a severe sandstorm.

In fact, the captain of Ever Given ship, Captain Kanthavel, also reported that visibility was poor that fateful day and he could only see dark outlines of other ships as they entered into the narrow channel of Suez Canal.

However, a small factor such as wind cannot possibly lead to such a large crisis especially when almost 50 ships cross Suez Canal every day in such weather.

Of course, Ever Given ship is no ordinary ship. It is almost as large as the Eiffel Tower and is the largest cargo ship in the world. It carries thousands of containers.

In fact, some experts have concluded that the containers may have acted as sail and resulted in the Ever Given ship getting out of control.

A detailed investigation from authorities have uncovered a series of evidences which explains what actually led to the crisis.

However, before we dive deep, we must understand what we are dealing with.

Ever Given ship is a colossal, modern ship which carries more than 17,000 containers.

The weight and capacity of the ship meant that it was just a few meters from the sea floor and thus the Ever Given crew couldn’t afford mistakes. This, coupled with the lack of communication between the crew and the Suez Canal guidance pilots meant that Ever Given ship had a slim chance.

According to the investigation, there was dispute amongst the Suez Canal pilots and Ever Given crew whether it is possible to enter the canal in the first place because of the disturbing weather that day.

In fact, one Qatar ship had already decided not to enter the canal previously.

Does this mean that there was lack of judgement and over confidence from the captain? Or is it that the captain may be under severe commercial pressures.

It is true, after all, the Ever Given ship was carrying almost $1 billion cargo that day!

But hold your horses, deciding on whether to enter the canal couldn’t be blamed, as the real trouble actually started afterwards.

What really happened?

Like the usual protocol, Ever Given ship crew was greeted by Suez Canal pilots whose job is to guide the pilots into the canal. However, a major problem was language barriers.

Of course, English was not the native language of Suez Canal pilots and Ever Given crew consisted of Indians and people from different nationalities.

Just few minutes after the ship entered the mouth of the canal, it began to steer dangerously amid high winds from port to starboard and back again. This could be blamed on the huge number of containers which acted as sail and the merciless winds that contributed to the crisis.

Suez Canal is a very narrow channel. It’s just 200 meters wide and only 24 meters deep. When you compare this with the dimensions of the Ever Given ship, you will know that the Suez Canal is only just suitable!

Just as the ship began to get out of control, the Suez Canal pilots became alarmed. The lead pilot of the Suez Canal Authority began to give orders desperately to the Ever given crew in a bid to take control of the situation. But it is inferred that he might have panicked.

He ordered to steer left then suddenly steer right, which caused greater confusion. However, this didn’t go well with Captain Kanthavel. It is true that there was confusion in the cabin.

This led to an argument between the two pilots. According to investigation and reports, there were even some abuses and exchange of hot words.

What followed afterwards was a fruitless effort to take retain control of the ship. The SCA pilot ordered to maximize the speed of the ship. But how would this help?

Well, actually the pilot thought that increasing the speed would give more stability and control to the ship but what made it worse was the fact that the fluid’s pressure went down as the speed increased.

Not with us? Of course, this is a complex mathematics concept but in simple words, the ship was now actually getting sucked into the bank!

This, coupled with the argument and lack of understanding between the pilots meant that Ever Given ship was bound to crash and soon the Ever Given ship gave in to the Suez Canal, causing a worldwide economic setback and attracting worldwide attention.

What was done to get the ship out of the Canal?

The crashing of Ever Given ship was perhaps the greatest loss to the world economies after the Covid-19 pandemic.

To get the Ever given ship running again meant that it had to float again on the water. This presented a straightforward solution. Digging underneath the water and removing sand from underneath the ship.

To get this done, the authorities made use of special machinery which included dredgers. Most of you might be curious about how does it actually help in this case.

Dredgers are ships which are equipped with machines that can remove sand from under the water. The sand can even be brought up by vacuum pumps or bucket like devices.

However, the Ever Given ship was no ordinary ship. Like the old saying goes, it takes a village to rescue a world-class container ship.

For the first time in many years, one of the largest dredgers in the world were brought to action by the Suez Canal Authority, named the Mashhour.

Although this helped, simply removing the sand from underwater would not steer such a large ship, the Ever Given ship had to be forced back into the water. This required pushing and pulling the ship through various boats and equipment.

If you are a ship enthusiast, you must be well aware of tugboats. Tugboats are powerful ships or boats that are used to control the larger ships and assist them in parking and moving in and out of the ports.

Most of you must be thinking, how does a ship as large as Ever Given be controlled and rescued by tugboats? Well, according to BBC, more than 18 tugboats of different sizes were used to rescue the Ever Given ship.

However, another factor which played an important part in the rescue of Ever Given ship was high tides! The spring high tides added a few inches of water inside the canal, making removal easier.

Recovery of the Ever Given ship

The recovery of the Ever Given ship took almost 6 days.

These 6 days were perhaps the most important for Egypt. The worldwide pressure was mounting, as each day the ship remained stuck, billions were lost in trade!

Not only this, it is well known that the Suez Canal is a key port and acts as a linkage and is a prime location for trade.

Unfortunately, the Ever Given ship getting stuck meant that the operations of the Suez Canal were badly disrupted.

Even after the removal of the Ever Given ship, there were still 300 ships waiting to enter the Suez Canal. This could have been more if the ship had been rescued later.

In addition to this, there were still around 130 vessels on the way to Suez Canal.

This resulted in a huge sea traffic and caused further disruption of international trade!

The Aftermath

The world couldn’t simply forget this crisis just because the Ever Given ship was recovered. The recovery of the ship led to a series of new events.

These were first initiated by the Egyptian government which demanded $1 billion in settlement from the ship’s owners Shoe Kisen Kaisha for their efforts to recover the huge ship and moral losses, including their reputation.

This meant that the Ever given ship couldn’t move until the debt has been cleared.

Of course, for a ship carrying more than 17,000 containers, this is not an ordinary situation.

Commercial companies like Nike began sending their lawyers to oversee the situation.

Later, the SCA (Suez Canal Authority) reduced their demand to $550 million and was entitled to receive powerful tugboats which would help in the operations of Suez Canal.

The next priority of the authorities was to immediately launch an investigation into the matter.

The SCA blamed the cause of the incident on the captain of the Ever Given ship and cleared the name for the Suez Canal pilots. However, the main cause of the accident was the argument and lack of professionalism from both the captains.


It is clear that the Ever Given ship is one of the key transport medium for trade and is worth billions of dollars. Although the Ever Given ship getting stuck in Suez Canal was a great tragedy, we should always be optimistic.

This crisis has provided an opportunity of learning to the marine department.

Although the full investigation is yet to be unfolded, this is a great opportunity for the world to revise their protocols and training methods. This tragedy has taught us a lot.

In fact, through proper investigation and by learning from mistakes, there is potential that future accidents can be avoided and sea travel gets safer!

Hope this article was interesting and has given you some more insights regarding this incident.

Until next time, Happy Reading 😊

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