Ship Halts Trade in Suez Canal: Sparks Internet Memes

Twitter was overwhelmed with Suez Canal-related memes.

Waking up on a normal Wednesday morning, I don’t usually read news about international shipping routes. Yet the course of the Ever Given shipping container proved itself to be unique and worthy of the world’s attention.  

On Wednesday, March 24, the Ever Given’s bow got stuck in the bank of the Suez Canal, grinding both the ship and international shipping to a standstill. This impasse on international trade was due to the fact that the Suez Canal is one of the most important waterways in the world in terms of global commerce, with more than 50 ships passing through the canal each day. The Ever Given is a cargo carrier weighing more than 200,000 tons and measuring more than 1,300 feet long and 193 feet wide. This feat of human ingenuity (lodging a cargo ship in the banks of the Suez Canal) was even able to be seen from space. 

By Thursday, I had sent Suez Canal memes to no less than five different people. It felt like April Fools came early. Some saw the potential for the Ever Given to be a different kind of vessel, a vessel for fantastic jokes. Others understood it to be a metaphor for our time, with one meme placing the Ever Given as their “mental health problems incurred and exacerbated due to a pandemic and isolation” and the initial ineffectual rescue crew, which seemingly consisted of a sparse two workmen and a small excavating truck, as the common and somewhat overdone suggestion, “have you tried mindfulness?”

While it can feel like the news cycle spins at a frantic pace and what is newsworthy one day is ancient history the next, the Ever Given was not done giving us laughs. After running aground, the cargo ship failed to be successfully removed from the bank of the canal for six days. The ship was eventually freed due to the rising tides helping the various dispatched tugnuts to free the cargo ship. But that was not the end of shipping container-based humor, with the hashtag #putitback gaining popularity and then trending almost immediately after the Ever Given was freed from the Suez Canal bank. 

The memes continued, with some devastated at their own financial reckoning hitting with the recent freeing of the cargo ship because they had just spent all their stimulus money on starting a merch company for the stuck vessel. 

Perhaps the best summary of how we should fondly remember this ludicrous event is a Dr. Seuss quote saying, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened,” emblazoned on top of a picture of the stuck Ever Given in rainbow font. 

While this interruption to international trade is not a net positive in terms of improving the economy or trade, it does provide much-needed relief from the onslaught of the frankly despondent and devastating news that has characterized the international news cycle for the past year. A situation that could be compared to everyone in the world watching the aftermath of a failed parallel parking attempt is funny, and I’m glad that we were able to have something to laugh about in this crazy year. 

For those concerned with the blockage of trade along the canal due to the Ever Given’s grounding, as of April 3, the Egyptian canal authorities have confirmed that the 422 or so ships that were creating a maritime bottleneck have successfully passed through the canal, returning international shipping to normal in “record time” according to Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority.