MV Ever Given freed: emerging impact on global supply chain

Electronics and car manufacturing will be the industries hardest hit by the Suez Canal blockage, supply chain management expert Flavio Macau says.

The MV Ever Given was successfully floated on 29 March, with around 400 boats waiting outside the canal now able to start passing through.

Flavio, Vice President at Australasian Supply Chain Institutes’ (ASCI) WA Chapter and supply chain management expert at Edith Cowan University, says industries that were already fragile with low inventories – such as electronics and cars – may take a couple of weeks to get back to normal operational levels.

“If their inventories were low at the start, and they’re only receiving product this week, it will have a domino effect and put them behind schedule for a bit more time,” he says.

“High performance microchips have been struggling for the past two to three months and this blockage certainly didn’t help. Freeing the canal doesn’t solve the problem, it just alleviates it a bit.”

The giant cargo ship was stuck in the sandbank of the Suez Canal for almost a week. Picture: Suez Canal Authority 

Flavio says livestock and perishable industries may go without stock for a few days but shouldn’t see too much disruption.

He predicts most other industries will hardly see any impact on a global level from the blockage, which lasted almost a week when the ship became wedged on 23 March.

Flavio says that although oil prices did spike a little, they wouldn’t be influenced by the canal blockage going forward.

“The blockage wasn’t long enough to have caused these problems, it just exacerbated them,” he says.

“The event gave visibility to some parts of the supply chain that needed a bit more care that were low in inventory due to a number of reasons.”

It will take between five to 10 days for business to resume as usual in the canal, and for all the boats waiting outside to pass through.

“They do have to reorganise the line, but the canal is free now so it shouldn’t be that much of a hassle,” Flavio says.

One of the main contributors to being able to dislodge the boat was the event of a Supermoon, in which the gravitational pull between Earth and the moon is stronger. This caused the tide to rise in the Suez Canal to around 2m.

Approximately 30,000 cubic metres of sand was dredged to refloat the 224,000-tonne container ship, with 11 tugs and two powerful sea tugs used to free the ship.

The MV Ever Given is on the move after being freed with the help of tug boats. Picture: Suez Canal Authority

When the boat became stuck in the sandbank the highest tide was around 1.5m. Flavio says the extra 50cm was a huge factor in why the boat was able to be released.

“If they weren’t able to free it today, it would have taken several more days. It was a really critical day,” he says.

Rachel Webster, Astrophysics Professor at Melbourne University, says the workers only had a very narrow window of time to take advantage of the high tide.

“The total tide range in specific places can be quite enhanced, and from what I’ve heard this was the case in the Suez Canal,” she says.

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