Suez Canal Jam Will Take Months to Sort, Many Live Animals Likely Perished on Ships

The Ever Given blocks the Suez Canal         Image: Pierre Markuse, Wiki CC

By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

The Ever Given is no longer stuck in the Suez Canal, but world shipping is hardly back to normal. In just six days, the massive container ship held up almost $60 billion in global trade. Supply chains across the world are delayed and off schedule, and the incident has economists and maritime experts across the globe reevaluating the efficacy of the current shipping economy, and they say there’s a lot that isn’t working.  For example, there will be a huge loss of live animals — many ships with livestock were among those stalled by the Ever Given without enough food and water aboard to survive.  

Why this Matters: The pandemic has rocketed demand for goods (and vaccines) to all-time highs, but bottlenecks at many major ports and slow shipping speed could slow the global economy just as it begins to recover from COVID-19. Most people have noticed some slight changes in their local stores and supply chains since March of 2020 and experts say that won’t end as soon as we’d hoped. Hundreds of American businesses have already reported spending millions to expedite shipping, and President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package is expected to increase consumer purchasing in the next few months. Jett McCandless, the CEO of the supply chain visibility company Project44, said, “if demand in Western countries continues like it has for the last nine months, these disruptions will go into 2022.”

Dude, Where’s My Boat?

The more than 350 container ships stranded at the mouth of the Suez are now stranded waiting in the ports of cities like Los Angeles, where some ships unload and sail away without reloading to open up dock space for other ships. American exports are stuck in port and stores across the country are experiencing massive delays. Nescafé, Ikea, and Caterpillar have all reported shipments held up aboard delayed ships. “Name a brand, and it would be unusual if they don’t have something impacted by this,” said McCandless. “People should get comfortable waiting.” Massive over-packed container ships are also having trouble moving at high speeds. A system of smaller ships may have recovered faster, but the current global shipping system relies on these large vessels to meet western demand.

Carbon Cargo

In addition to manufactured products, raw materials and even livestock have been stuck waiting in docks and ports. Approximately 200,000 animals were onboard ships blocked by the Ever Given, many of which went without food and water for days, packed into containers like sardines.  The European Union requires that ships with live animals carry an extra 25% more feed than is necessary for their trips for delays like this, but animal welfare organizations say that most of the animals on these ships likely died because shippers often don’t comply, and even so it would not have been enough.  

Experts say the compounding emissions caused by the agricultural trade and the shipping trade are prime examples of why shipping needs a big change.

These emissions are just one example of how unsustainable industries lean on each other to stand. Changing our shipping system will mean changing the way we consume products from computers to hamburgers, but if we don’t, we won’t succeed at halting climate change.

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