On Tuesday, Mar. 23, a massive cargo ship turned sideways and completely blocked the Suez Canal, which is a man-made waterway dividing continental Africa from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The Suez Canal is important in the global trade industry. Billions of dollars’ worth of trade and goods pass through the canal daily, so the global economy suffered losses due to the few days the ship was stuck. Annually, the canal is responsible for about 12% of global trade.
The ship is called the MV Ever Given, which is a Panamanian container ship that typically carries trade between Asia and Europe. It is not clear what caused the ship to overturn, but officials are blaming the mishap on high winds. The company that operates the ship, Evergreen Marine Corp., said in a statement that the ship had become overcome by strong winds as it entered the canal, but none of the containers of the ship had sunk.
The 220,000-ton ship was freed on Monday, March 29 as a result of 24-hours of digging and tugboats pushing and pulling the vessel to the middle of the canal. Workers removed around 30,000 cubic meters of sand, which is enough to fill almost a dozen Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Although the ship has been freed, experts are saying that the almost weeklong jam in the canal could have drastic and lasting effects. Global trade has already been strained for the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and an estimated $9 billion in trade had been held up due to the Ever Given being stuck. According to Suez Canal authority chairman Osama Rabie, the disruption in the canal cost the canal as much as $15 billion per day that the Ever Given was stuck. The ship held up almost four hundred other vessels on either side of the canal, waiting for passage as the Ever Given was freed. Because of the backup in the canal over the past week, experts are predicting that there will be congestion in many European and Asian ports that the ships stuck behind the Ever Given in the canal were headed to.
“I reckon we won't see the end of this for several years yet because the knock-on effect is so vast,” said maritime arbitrator Jeffrey Blum.
Since the vessel is owned by a Japanese firm, operated by a Taiwanese shipper, flagged in Panama and was stuck in Egypt, the issue of the Ever Green’s holdup in the Suez Canal has quickly become an international issue. Captain John Konrad, the founder and CEO of the shipping news website gcaptain.com, says, “This ship is a multinational conglomeration."
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi expressed gratitude even in the face of such a drastic and damaging ordeal for his nation.
“We didn't hope for something like this, but fate was doing its work,” he said. “It showed and reaffirmed the reality and importance [of the canal].”
The disaster brought global attention to the canal, allowing the world to see how important Egypt’s canal is in the realm of global trade and economics. Although the disruption was a nightmare for global trade and will likely have lasting effects, people on social media took to making fun of the situation. The rare and abnormal happening was enough for the internet to latch on and generate meme after meme about the Ever Given’s unfortunate hold up. The most popular memes regarding the situation are of the comparably tiny digger next to the massive ship, working its hardest to dig out sand to free the ship. One viral Twitter meme of the now infamous photo of the ship and the digger was captioned, “Me just trying my best.”
Late night host Jimmy Kimmel joined the fun in joking about the situation.
“I have to say, after all the fighting and the tooth gnashing over the past few years, it was nice to see the whole world come together to make fun of a boat, it really was,” he said. “Basically, capitalism had a heart attack over this last week.”