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Suez canal blocked by a massive ship (twitter.com/jsrailton)
1055 points by tilolebo 25 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 427 comments

Compare the red/black line on the ship's hull and the water line. Under normal conditions, the red/black line is parallel to the water across the length of the ship:


In this picture of the ship stuck in the Suez, the red/black line appears to tilt noticeably upwards towards the bow:


If this isn't some sort of optical illusion, the bow of the ship appears runaground by quite a bit.

All ships of this size have a number of large ballast tanks that they use to pump seawater in and out to compensate for placement of cargo.

My guess would be that they've emptied the ballast tanks in the end that has run aground and filled them in the other end to rise the keel.

That makes sense. I wonder though how much difference ballast rebalancing can make on this fully loaded ship.

The bulbous bow seems pretty jammed into the side


It has gone in with some force.

I’m not a ship engineer but I do know that ships are not built to be suspended from the ends. I guess in the worst case the hull breaks which would mean the canal to be blocked for quite a while.

That's usually only a real problem when the ship is suspended in the air, between wavetops. This one is still in the water, though maybe it has a little less support in the center than normal

Ships actually are designed to be suspended from the ends. Ocean going vessels are going to experience wave crests which can be any length apart, including the full length of the ship.

If you go to vesselfinder you can follow the drama in real-time! Seems it's still stuck: https://www.vesselfinder.com/?imo=9811000

This link is extremely interesting. Keep zooming out all the way if you haven't already.

Thanks to the mandatory AIS system onboard https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_identification_syste...

Wow. The magnitude of global trade is insane!

The fun thing is that it's not just sea trade, but also internal rivers. Checkout all the ships between Rotterdam and the Ruhr Area, for example.

It's a lot quieter than it used to be.

Even worse for planes on flight radar 24.

Maritime traffic dropped significantly during mid-2020 but has largely recovered. For example, Singapore's stats for Feb 2021 are basically flat year-on-year for container throughput.

As is the environmental harm

Super-ships emit ~5g_Co2/Ton/km on average[1], while railway is 2-35g, air transport is 700-3000g and truck transport is 100-2000g.

Surprisingly, the bigger the boat the more effective. We tend to have a bias against larger machines, but often they can be the cleanest in proportion.

[1] https://www.ademe.fr/sites/default/files/assets/documents/86...

There's nothing surprising about large ships being more efficient. But a big issue is that many ships burn dirty fuel. Apparently there are no fuel standards in international waters.

As for the comparison to trains, it matters a lot whether you're talking about diesel or electric trains. Most train lines in Europe are electrified, and as electricity production switches to solar/wind, it may actually end up being cleaner than ships. (Although work is also being done on making ships cleaner. But new international laws are probably needed to get everybody on board.)

The real issue, though, isn't no much whether the transport happens by boat or train, but that it happens at all. The scale of global shipping is this big because everything is produced on the other side of the world. Big ships make that transport more efficient, but a more egalitarian global economy that didn't create incentives for companies to seek out every low-wage country and tax haven, would make local manufacturing more attractive and reduce global shipping.

Isn't the problem that ships are burning heavy oil instead of diesel or similar? CO2 isn't the main worry afaik, it's the rest that gets blasted unfiltered into the atmosphere and the left over sludge that gets illegally dumped into the sea.

it's not perfect but it's gotten better apparently. 170 countries have signed a treaty significantly reducing the fuel sulphur content.




  The upper limit of the sulphur content of ships' fuel oil was reduced to 0.5% (from 3.5% previously) - under the so-called "IMO 2020" regulation prescribed in the MARPOL Convention. This significantly reduces the amount of sulphur oxide emanating from ships.

Ironically, a reduction in sulfur emitted from these ships may actually accelerate global warming: https://www.technologyreview.com/2018/01/22/67402/were-about...

Burning that kind of fuel near populated areas is a problem, so long-distance shipping is probably the best use for it.

5g per km-tonne adds up to a lot though doesn't it.

"Maritime transport emits around 940 million tonnes of CO2 annually and is responsible for about 2.5% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (3rd IMO GHG study)."


The problem is that we (as a species) are moving far too much, far too far.

Some things just work best at scale - rockets that have to launch from Earths gravity well apparently do as well:


And it makes sense if you think about it - as you scale up, the ammount of fuel you can carry goes up roghly by cube while structure mass, forming a shell effectively arround the fuel, goes up by square of size of the rocket.

Similar things for air resistance - as you scale up yuour rocket the front part creating the most drag will scale more slowly than the volume of the rocket that goes to fuel, payload and structure.

No wonder Starship is already at 9 meters of width and 18 m has been mentioned as a possible future upgrade. Its already bigger than the massive 66+ meter high medieval watchtower in my home town yet it can fly to sub orbital speeds without its first stage booster (which is even bigger)!

For pressure vessels like rockets, the mass of the structure and the mass of the fuel scale together as far as square-cube reasoning goes. The surface area of the structure scales with the square while the volume of the fuel scales with the cube, but the thickness of the cylinder walls must also increase, so you end up with cube vs cube.

I would assume that were the case because if not, presumably it would be cheaper to transport the cargo in multiple smaller ships!

Assuming that pollution primarily caused by fuel usage of course.

Why truck transport x20 vary?

Possibly road conditions and distance. A truck moving goods around a city will be much less efficient (stop-start traffic) than a truck moving goods over a long distance between cities (likely mostly highway).

Apparently 30% of all container traffic go through the Suez canal. Around 51 ships per day.

How much longer would it take to go around Africa to Gibraltar?

The increase in distance would be approx. 6,000Nm (assuming they arrived at the entrance to the Red Sea before having to change course).

6000Nm and, say, 25 knots (probably a bit on the high side, but not by much) should add 240 hours of steaming or 10 days to the voyage.

(This will be somewhat offset by the lower speed through the channel, waiting times &c - I've no idea how long a typical Suez transit is.)

"I've no idea how long a typical Suez transit is."

For yachts it is (supposed to be) two days. It's one day to Ismailia on either way and then one for the rest. (The paperwork however, may take longer, but can be arranged in advance.) See more at https://www.noonsite.com/report/suez-canal-transit-informati...

walrus01 linked a video here yesterday [0] of a ship transit. For a ship it takes 11 to 16 hours, including stop on Great Bitter Lake in the middle of the canal.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26561816

8 days, but the bigger problem is that increases the expected sea states encountered by several levels. Huge container ships don't like that.

Can you expand as to why not/what "increases expected sea states encountered" means? Maybe an ELI5

Look at a globe. You'll notice that the water around the tip of South America/South Africa is one of the few bands of the Earth completely unbroken by landmass.

That's a lot of fetch for wind, which transfers energy to the ocean's surface, which travels as waves, which build up because there's no land damping from west to east. Throw in the Antarctic Circumpolar current and weather systems interacting with the Benguela current an Agulhas current... That's a lot of energy getting put into a relatively tiny band of water.

The Cape of Good Hope was previously known as the Cape of Storms based on the aforementioned confluence of forces generally making sea states miserable. The Good Hope part was what putatively happened after you got through it, and the seas you'd have to worry about would generally be calmer.

Very rough water around the cape of good hope. Comparatively calm water through the Suez and Med.

Hoping I'm not misreading and this is what you're after - basically, less predictable weather that is more prone to suddenly changing when going that route and also naturally given the extended period of time involved. Longer it take to go around, the more time for potential sea conditions that large container ships may not be safe in.

Had more luck with this one, hug of death?


Still stuck. 6 tugs are on it and a pleasure craft, possibly used to direct operations or some idiot taking pictures.

>and a pleasure craft

I see that labeling too, but the Tahia Misr2 is a tug, sister to the Tahia Misr1.

I'm not sure why it's displaying as a pleasure craft.

Maybe it is enjoying itself?

I don't want to know, do I?

Edit: The phrase "pleasure craft" is a triple entendre, and possibly a quadruple.

You fill in the AIS data fields yourself, my experience is that it is not uncomon to see the ”less important” AIS data Fields beeing wrong.

Ah thanks. I bet it's a data sanitization or registration foul-up. It's Egypt, after all, where things don't always work honestly or consistently.

There will be a ton of pictures to document, and later investigate, that incident.

Is the Suez Canal Authority of Egypt or maritime authorities in-charge professional enough to do this?

There are professionals, I don't know how it works at suez but we have people called "Havarie Kommisar", they are the guys brought in by insurances to document and certify accidents involving transportation.

Considering how niche it is, that's a super snappy and well designed site!

EDIT: Just saw they had outages, but I guess nobody ever expected it to be trending on twitter. Works fine for me.

Niche, but very important to participants in the market. There is a growing industry of cargo and vessel tracking SaaS solutions (including https://Vortexa.com)

Fond memories. I once tracked a ship carrying a couple of containers that were urgently needed driving in circles in the English Channel for two weeks.

My partner and I shipped our furniture from the US to Europe for an international move. We were tracking the ship going back and forth between Hamburg and Copenhagen for weeks. Turns out the moving company gave us the wrong ship number, and our stuff had been waiting for us in the destination port.

Cool. It even shows the 7 tugs trying to help.

I was looking up how hard can a tug tug. Wikipedia seems to imply 65 tons is normal.

So how long before they start rerouting, for ships that can make that passage South of the horn?

Does anyone know the transit time to pass through the canal versus going around the South Africa route?

The article on gCaptain said that shippers would begin re-routes after 24 hours of closure, which was about 6:00 UTC today.

How does it look like normally? I guess full of ships anyway?

“If” applies here nicely, website isn’t responding for me

marinetraffic.com is a good alt

Here is another accident of the "Ever Given" in Hamburg [0] in which a harbour ferry suffered a total loss after being rammed by her. Supposed cause was an unfortunate combination of slow speeds and severe wind which seems to be a difficult situation for ships as tall as these.

Maybe a similar combination of events happened here?

[0] https://www.mopo.de/hamburg/frachter-rammt-faehre-knapp-an-d...

I love the position of the Swedish flag in that photo.

Given that the accident happened in Germany and the ship is Taiwanese.

It is just freaky, I don't know if it is good or bad to be associated with such an incident.

In a plane crash they are usually quick to paint over the name of the airline company to not be associated. I don't think this is the same though.

Can't see the flag, because the whole page is blocked by some BS (presumably in german). Blocking own content or creating obstacles to see it ... what can be more ridiculous. I just close such web pages and never come back.

Same. I had this idea of making a special pi-hole variation where instead of blocking the domains, it actually redirects me to a page of my own creation that explains that the given domain was blocked by me due to [intrusive popups, hiding the article behind a click so it can trigger some JS, whatever other dark patterns]. It's hard to manually remember all the domains to not bother clicking links to :)

The easiest way to achieve this on a desktop browser (or Firefox for Android) may be to add custom, named filter lists to uBlock Origin. The name will show up on the block page ("Found in: $LIST_NAME") It's not network-wide, but at least you can host your lists on the web to keep them up to date across your devices (and to share your efforts with others!).

Ah right, I want something network-wide and not requiring installation of software on any machine, etc. I do appreciate the tip, though! :)

Clicking "Akzeptieren und weiter zu mopo.de" will let you view the page.

I saw a cookies consent popover followed by a “oh no ad block” popover.

I can’t get worked up against them for wanting to get paid, even though I regard adverts as parasites of time, energy, and bandwidth and won’t disable my ad blocker for them — I don’t have solutions, just the aphorism about two wrongs.

It's a GDPR consent banner.

I didn't tolerate it either — I can often figure out which button is "Necessary cookies only", but not in this case.

However, Firefox's reader mode retains the main image: https://www.mopo.de/image/32016852/2x1/940/470/afcc092634a9d...

Good old GDPR improving our web experience!

The first notification informes you about the cookies the website is using. You need to agree to the use of the cookies to continue. This is mandatory by european law.

But I agree with you that the placement and the fact that the banner blocks the whole website is unconvenient.

The second notification tells you to turn your ad-blocker of or to watch a video instead.

> You need to agree to the use of the cookies to continue. This is mandatory by european law.

No, it is not mandatory by European law. The myth persists.

The site can use essential cookies or no cookies just fine, with no banner required at all. Nothing.

If they decide to use non-essential cookies, for example privacy-intrusion tracking cookies to follow your activity around the web for advertising, then they need to notify you of this tracking and obtain consent. You have a right to know, after all, and you might prefer to exercise your rights by declining consent. But nothing requires it to be a large banner, and nothing requires the "reject all" button to be difficult to find.

I know, I should have clarified that. But to be honest, most newspapers use more then the essential tokens.

As I wrote, I find the blocking of the website and the placement of the banner unconvinient. I am also convinced that it should be mandatory to have a "essential cookies only" button.

I just wanted to explain what the banner is for, as the parent comment did not understand the german text.

The law doesn't say that the cookie banner has to cover the entire page. It doesn't say either that the button to reject the cookies must be hidden at the end of the form.

"But I agree with you that the placement and the fact that the banner blocks the whole website is unconvenient."

Not the first time the Swedes have had experience with tall ships causing problems.

Ha, you refer to the Vasa, I guess? ;)


> It is just freaky, I don't know if it is good or bad to be associated with such an incident.

I think it's not good because of the potential to become politicly charged. Add some "cyber" and it has NatSec types reeling. There is a scenario in Ghost Fleet[1] where a vessel sailing under a Chinese flag blocks the Panama canal in a theater of war with the West. Not going to issue any spoilers but it's a brilliant (fiction) novel for hypothetical future war scenario's.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_Fleet_(novel)

I believe the US military was worried about a German or Japanese strike on the Panama canal in WW2. And the Suez Canal was literally blocked by scuttling ships when Egypt took control in the Suez crisis.

The Panama Canal has always been much more vulnerable than Suez, as the latter is sea-level for it's entire length and has no locks.

Destroying or blocking as few as three locks could semi-permanently block all traffic in Panama, or worse, drain Gatun.

Wow, the same ship with a very unusual accident just 14 Months ago. A very bad look and hints to a deeper systemic issue that was not fixed.

The cause for that accident seems to have been strong wind, which apparently makes these huge ships very hard or even impossible to maneuver when they are going slow.

If true, then the "systemic issue" is only that ships are getting too big.

Hi. Skipper here (nothing of the size of the ship in question, obviously:).

Ships of ANY size are hard or impossible to maneuver when they are going slow and have a blackout. The size doesn't matter.

The control surfaces only work when they move with regards to water.

The ship that does not move is uncontrollable with rudder and it needs to use something else to help it maneuver. This something else can be a tugboat that rotates the ship by the force it can generate, or it can be thrusters. Thrusters aren't propulsion method and they are relatively small and can counter only so much wind.

I was referring to the incident in Hamburg, where there was (according to the article) no blackout, the ship had two local pilots on board and a tugboat attached.

And yet, they were unable to prevent the wind from pushing them into a moored ferry they were passing.

Isn't this why new ships are starting to have multiple 360 degree electrical drivers instead of one big propeller? I think they are called iso-pods.

You mean this? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azipod

I think the biggest issue is complexity and resulting unreliability. On a ship that has to be in constant use for decades you want things that are simple and reliable.

"The latest design, the Azipod X, incorporates these improvements, with a view to a service interval of five years, and features bearings that can be taken apart and repaired from inside the pod while the ship is harbored normally"

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. They are working on it:)

Also an important factor on large vessel is fuel efficiency. You don't want anything sticking out unless absolutely necessary, so these would have to be meant for propulsion. But because of complex construction I can expect they are less efficient than just straight through axle and a huge propeller on it.

I expect things like this to be useful on utility vessels of small to medium size where you don't necessarily need so much efficiency but the utility comes from being able to maneuver quickly and in various conditions.

Harbor tugs are more commonly equipped with these: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voith_Schneider_Propeller

They're quite efficient (although maybe only for lower speeds) and provide extreme maneuverability.

They usually isn't used as the primary means of propulsion on most bigger ships. It's also not uncommon for them to be retractable. If you need a large ship at a very specific position for a week, then you definetly need it, and that is a common use case as it allows for impressively accurate control. Heck, you could avoid moorings altogether and just keep it in place without it if you wanted to.

Can I also ask if it’s true that such a beast like the ever given would have as little as 30% of back maneuver power compare to forward sail?

I have absolutely no first hand knowledge of these beasts, but some common sense here below:

The engine can most likely work both directions equally.

The propeller is optimized to work in forward direction, so it will have worse efficiency going in the other direction.

The rotation would have to be limited when going in reverse because of cavitation (and maybe other structural limitations). That again is a result of the wrong shape of the propeller (when in wrong direction).

The hull will have significantly more drag when in wrong direction.

Now, engine power is defined as whatever it can put out and if the engine works the same way in both directions then power is the same also.

So you can think this way: most likely it has the same power as going forward but it can't use it and whatever it can use will be much less efficiently translated into motion.

For ships that have turbo-electric drive trains rather than big shafts, I wonder if it would be possible to vector the propellers somewhat for better maneuverability, the same way that rockets use gimballing engines? Probably not worth the maintenance though, with sealant and salt water considerations.

This is common on cruise ships. They spend so much of their time going in and out of port the extra manoeuvrability is worth it in requiring fewer tugs.


Anything else than straight shaft with a propeller on it is a loss of efficiency and reliability.

When the fuel efficiency and reliability drive your competitiveness that is a huge issue.

Something that people perhaps don't appreciate is that typical large ships like this don't even have a gearbox (which would be perhaps 95% efficient).

They use large two stroke diesel engines which can be stopped and started in reverse. They use an extra valve in the engine head to admit air for starting and have valve gear which controls the direction.

Cruise ships on the other hand have electrical house loads which are almost the same as their propulsion loads. In addition to the manoeuvrability advantages this makes diesel electric drive advantageous.

Megaship engines are so fascinating. Over 100k horse power!


I like to think of it as: 5.6 million lb-ft of torque at ~100 rpm means if you could get it up to about 5250 rpm, you'd have 5.6 million hp.

It's not uncommon for ships to have thrusters that can move or rotate the ship in any directions. When doing underwater operations the ship needs to stay in place, and eg. GPS and/or triangulation from land or oil rigs is used to make sure it holds the correct position, even in quite strong winds.

>> The cause for that accident seems to have been strong wind

The more descriptive cause is the failure to pay for adequate tug support/escort.

"(Escort tug charge) = 6,600 SDR/tug"


I was talking about the incident in Hamburg, not at the Suez canal. I'm not sure about Suez, but I'm pretty sure you don't get to choose whether and how many tugs you need at Hamburg; the port will decide that.

The article cites a tug captain as saying that they have a very limited ability to react to big ships being pushed by strong wind. They compare it to driving a care on ice.

I believe the cause of the incident here was a blackout [1].

[1] https://gcaptain.com/grounded-mega-ship-blocking-suez-canal-...

AFP reports gust of wind.

> Early reports speculated the vessel suffered a loss of power, but the ship’s operator, Evergreen Marine Corp, told Agence France-Presse it ran aground after being hit by a gust of wind.


Judging by the timeline on https://www.myshiptracking.com it looks like something that would be called pilot induced oscillation in aviation. Obviously speculation on my part, could be that loss of power weakened control authority over the ship and it became hard to manoeuvre.

The ship comes around the curve travelling north close to the outside (right, east, starboard) shore then overcorrect to the west shore then overcorrect more gravely to the east again and run aground.

GAC has pulled that claim, they made it here and now it 404s: https://www.gac.com/news--media/hot-port-news/container-ship...

According to the Twitter feed there is now a excavator trying to dig out the bow. It really shows off the scale as the excavator looks like a tiny toy next to the massive container ship.


Uhhh it's in Wikipedia's "largest container ships" list! [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_container_ship...

...and as the article says, "Furthermore, some of the world's main waterways such as the Suez Canal and Singapore Strait also restrict the maximum dimensions of a ship that can pass through them.", which explains why the list consists of large fleets of ships all almost exactly the same size.

Much like Panamax being the largest ship size which can traverse the Panama canal, there's a corresponding Suezmax[1]. Sort of like the old story of the Space Shuttle's SRB size being dictated by old Roman road design, it's interesting how modern design is influenced by historical limitations we might not consider.

The Shuttle SRB design still was dictated at least in part by the segments being transported by rail - each individual segment could be only as heavy, wide and long as the cobined stretch of railway from the factory would allow.

It influences other rockets as well - for example the Proton:


The long thin tanks you see mounted on the first stage are not drop tanks or additional boosters, its the tanks holding the first stage fuel, with the central core holding all the oxidzer.

Thats because the core stage is limitted in width by what you can ship to Bayokonur by rail, especialy IIRC one specific rail tunnel on the route. So they ship the core stage and the additional fuel tanks on separate rail cars and then bolt them in place on the cosmodrome.

In similar manner Falcon 9 is limitted to 3.9 m of width as that is the maximum you can ship over the US highway network without special care.

If you want to go bigger, you need special aircraft and barges, or build the thing in place like it is currently being done with the SpaceX Starhip.

One of the main roads near where I live is a Roman road. It's fascinating that the new buildings being built along it have their design constrained, in some way, by a decision made 2000 years ago.

2000 years? Think about how frequently we're hampered by limitations set 13.8 billion years ago...

Reminds me of this excellent old poem: https://poets.org/poem/calf-path

In 2016, Prokopowicz and Berg-Andreassen defined a container ship with a capacity of 10,000 to 20,000 TEU as a Very Large Container Ship (VLCS), while that with a capacity greater than 20,000 TEU as an Ultra Large Container Ship (ULCS)

They are gonna run out of larger adjectives pretty soon.

Just call Capcom.

“Super Container Ship II' Hyper Turbo Extra Special Champion Edition HD Remix”.

Btw, there's a similar conundrum with large telescope projects: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26333391

Same with IC size. Started with SSI (Small Scale Integration) then MSI (Medium Scale Integration), LSI (Large Scale Integration) and finally VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) in the early 1980ies. There was some talk of ULSI (Ultra Large Scale Integration), but thankfully this never caught on.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_circuit#ULSI,_WSI,_...

You forgot “Pro”, which is what makes a variant the bigger one.

I thought Pro meant remove all of the ports, and make it ultra thin

Removing all of the ports could really be a problem for a ship!

Nah, there's a dongle to connect to the dock without a port

Well, you see, the names I listed above are all actual ones used by Capcom.

Almost like a Samsung phone.

Large container ship 20 Ultra Plus 5G Fan edition

Samsung at least uses 1 qualifier per device. S21 Plus, S21 Ultra.

Apple's 12 Pro Max, though...

The phone gets so hot, it needs a fan?

Like the Nubia Red Magic phones you mean?

While it's not SI yet, they could still use Hella https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hella#SI_prefix

I'm all for Hella Container Ship

Now, hella is just a modifier. Hella Big Container Ship dwarfs Hella Small Excavator

Screen resolutions have not and they are way worse.

Ship sizes can just reuse that replacing “graphics array” with “container ship” e.g. Quad Size Extended Container Ship.

they just need to take a lead from astronomers


That's been the case for display resolutions for a while as well ... although most of them can probably be parsed by the regex [UWXVQ]+GA.

Well in frequency terminology they’ve still got Super Large, Extremely Large and Terrifically Large left!

Astronomers to the rescue!


True, but it is hard to get the scale of some ships until a real world item people are familiar with is close enough for a comparison.

I remember driving up to one of the battleship memorials as a child and it just seemed like this big gray mountain at the end of the street.

Anyone knows why all those Korean, Swiss and Taiwanese ships are registered in Panama instead of their own country?

It's a system called registering a ship under a "flag of convenience" [1].

Covers lots of questionable business practices, from employment conditions/health and safety, to tax etc.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_convenience

Edited to add this (which I did not know, but think it interesting) from the Wikipedia article:

The modern practice of ships being registered in a foreign country [ie, a flag of convenience] began in the 1920s in the United States when shipowners seeking to serve alcohol to passengers during Prohibition registered their ships in Panama. Owners soon began to perceive advantages in terms of avoiding increased regulations and rising labor costs and continued to register their ships in Panama even after Prohibition ended.

Just another tax evasion scheme.

I'm surprised Docker is not on that list

>Uhhh it's in Wikipedia's "largest container ships" list!

Off-topic, but does anyone else find it odd to find fillers like "umm" and "uhh" to be typed out on sites like HN or reddit?

No it contributes to more natural conversation, illustrating the commenter’s thought process.

I didn’t think that “natural” conversation was an actual goal on HN. You see this particularly in the way that humour (among other things) is often downvoted and discouraged.

I upvote humour for this reason, and down vote posts that are anti-fun. Believing all writing should be dull is a characteristic of people who can't write well.

Should the process not be completed before you hit "submit". There is no need to simulate a live conversation.


Picture from another angle. Not sure if it is authentic or photoshopped:



I'm no expert in detecting shoops. But ELA looks fine to me, I don't think it's photoshopped.

If you scroll down there is another picture from a distance that shows the digger. The shop is just massive. Explains why it's still stuck right now.

I see a Pixar movie about an excavator being written..

I feel so much empathy for "the little excavator that could"

I feel empathy for the driver. Worst job in the world.

Let's hope all those backed up ships aren't stuck as long as these chaps: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_Fleet

I watched a great video about this a few days ago:


> Cargo: Eggs, fruit


From what I recall they wanted to sell apples to the Egyptians, but the government refused. The crew ended up throwing the cargo overboard before it could perish.

I heard about this originally from a great German podcast "Geschichten aus der Geschichte": https://www.geschichte.fm/podcast/zs180/

This incident has already been added to opening section for the Suez Canal Wikipedia page.


I wonder what makes something significant enough to be added to this section. A quick scan of the page shows some interesting tidbits that aren't present in the opening (to me, more noteworthy - so far - than the ongoing blockage):

> The canal had an immediate and dramatic effect on world trade. Combined with the American transcontinental railroad completed six months earlier, it allowed the world to be circled in record time.

> In 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, the canal was the scene of a major crossing by the Egyptian army into Israeli-occupied Sinai and a counter-crossing by the Israeli army to Egypt. Much wreckage from this conflict remains visible along the canal's edges.

Once the event is over, I suspect people will review the page and decide that this has no place in the opening section. Then it'll move down to its rightful place.

Right now it's more a matter of racing to be as up-to-date as possible, rather than actually weighing the merits of having this in the opening section.

Presumably, for as long as the ship is blocking the canal, it is important enough to be in the opening section of the article. You can imagine that if the ship is there forever, it would certainly be in the opening section.

This is a big ship. There's no nearby facility to unload or service it. Its not something you bring tools in your pickup truck to solve the problem.

If its not immediately resolvable with the ships own facilities, then its not clear it can be solved in less than a-long-time. Maybe years?

Its 200 million pounds. It holds 20,000 units. To unload it would take building a facility on-site. And maybe a rail line to carry the cargo away.

I have hopes the tug solution will solve it. But if not, then there's probably no easy solution at all. Not one that costs less than a billion dollars?

I will eat my hat if this takes a year to resolve, or costs 1 billion dollars (excluding lost revenue due to closure, I have no idea what that is).

It's already costing 18 million dollars a minute

Sure, in lost revenue, which I specifically excluded.

Digging is easier than construction of complex facilities. If simpler methods fail, it won't take very long to widen the channel enough that they can move the ship out.

It’s not being salvaged at the most promising way, the many tugs that surrounds are just not fully capable, the biggest of all is less than 200ton bollard pull, together with 2 less than 100ton. Surely it’s for the reason of both cost saving and only gathering available resources from around? If it get stuck for longer than few days I bet better capable tugs would appear to end the scene


The Baraka1, which is already on the scene, is described here as the most powerful tug in the Middle East. It would probably take a while to bring in more powerful tugs.

I think it can be done faster, there are people specialized in such tasks: https://www.smit.com/#view/map but yes, you are right, this is not going to be 2h fix.

> this is not going to be 2h fix

In fact it’s already been 20 hours since the tweet was posted. I think the Twitter UI makes that clear enough, although reading the full thread is probably easier on Nitter https://nitter.cc/jsrailton/status/1374438210315513864

I don't think unloading it is an option. I wonder if they will get ships to push it.

Sounds like they are digging too.

Maybe "unloading" by dragging some of the containers off the ship. Either into the sea, or on land. Yes, it would be very messy: destroy some goods, damage the ship. But it might still be cheaper than the alternatives.

If this was a controlled flight into terrain to disrupt global container shipping, then yes, it will take more than a-short-time. Because drama for consumers of narrative and benefits for certain beneficiaries.

"The pandemic also had a deadly effect on economies: international mobility of both people and goods screeched to a halt, debilitating industries like tourism and _breaking global supply chains_" - Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development, 2010.

>The canal had an immediate and dramatic effect on world trade. Combined with the American transcontinental railroad completed six months earlier, it allowed the world to be circled in record time.

Interesting! That prompted me to look up Around the World in 80 Days, and it turns it out was published 3 years later (1872), using those pieces as part of the journey.


Does anyone have some insight on how this could affect global supply chains, depending on how long the canal is blocked? It seems like it's been blocked for a day or so, and there's already a pretty big queue. I'd imagine that has to have some significant impacts already.

Global trade will probably only be significantly impacted if the canal stays blocked for more than 2 weeks, which is when it starts to become a reasonable option (time-wise) to go south instead and round the cape. A backlog of ships on both sides will start to be really significant after 4 days of blocking, with longer blockade implying ports increasingly further down the routes being impacted as well. Currently, the worst that probably is happening is that the local logistics sector (train, truck, etc.) is in re-booking hell to handle the suddenly delayed ships.

src: I work at a container-logistics software company, and we've handled and seen similar situations (sudden loss of a main class of transport for a few days).

Yep. Operationally, things like that are interesting. Global as a whole usually recovers pretty well. Might drive container and shipping rates a tad more so.

Truck and train will probably see an increase as well on the China-Europe route if it takes too long.

Add to the fact that we had equipment shortage for a while these months (hi from a shipping agency)...

I don't think this will impact. There is already a lot of possibility of delays, for example ships taking detours due to bad weather systems, etc. Nobody plans success of their production based on the ship arriving on exact day.

In a chapter of "Ninety Percent of Everything", the author rides a container ship through the Suez Canal and relates what it's like, if this has piqued your interest about the shipping industry. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16044961-ninety-percent-...

Aren't they just a dozen Filipinos or Russians keeping the boat clean while the auto pilot makes a slight adjustment every few hours? I'm not sure how exciting it would be.

I haven't read the book, but I have traveled on a container ship through the Suez Canal. It's not really what I would call exciting, but it is fairly interesting. It takes less than a day to transit, and the scenery is relatively varied - you get to see urban areas, some rural farmland, beaches, and full out desert. Both in front and behind are dozens of massive container ships, just as big as the one you're on. It's quite humbling.

All this is in contrast to the rest of the time you are onboard. You are right that not very much happens. The ocean is very, very big. The vast majority of the time you can't see any land, or any other ships. If you don't have a satellite receiver of your own, there is no internet, no news, no nothing. Sometimes there is a storm. Sometimes there is a sunset. Most of the time there's nothing of note. I found it really relaxing, but it's definitely not for everyone. It's also a very expensive way to travel compared to commercial airlines or even long distance rail.

How does one end up traveling on a container ship?

Is that something you can pay to do?

Most of the ships have unused cabins, and some shipping companies allow civilians to book them as a sort of quirky cruise experience. There is quite a lot of paperwork involved, and you need to book fairly far in advance, but it's totally doable if you have the cash and the time. When I went it cost around us$100 per night. Going from Europe to Asia takes 3-4 weeks, I think going around the world (both Suez and Panama) can take 6 weeks or more.

For people who are on no-flight lists for whatever reason, this is one of the very few ways to travel across the ocean too.

I had no clue - this is fascinating. Do you mind sharing who you booked with?

The company I travelled with was actually Evergreen, so I was on one of these "Ever Foo" ships people are talking about upthread. The photos on Twitter look very similar to ones I took at the time.

I booked through a specialized travel agent in the EU that has since gone bust, but if you search the web for freighter cruise or cargo ship cruise you should be able to find some other companies that can help out.

My parents traveled on container ships quite a few times (twice to NZ and OZ). Trips are typically booked through specialised travel agents (you can find them quite easily via Google). There is quite a community of people doing these trips, mainly pensioners, because you need to have time and can't be sure about timing.

For those thinking about doing it, the Asia/Africa routes from Europe are much more interesting. Going across the Atlantic or Pacific is much less interesting. Also in the modern age of container freight you don't have much time at the ports, and often the captains are reluctant to let you get off, because they are on such tight schedule and delays would quickly cost 100s of 1000s of dollars per hour (that will give you an idea about the economic impact of this blockage).

My mother actually travelled on a loose cargo freighter in the 90s. That was a completely different experience because you would often have several days or a week at port.

I did this in 2012 from Australia to South Korea - theres a bunch of specialized travel agencies you can book through. From memory it took about 10 days.

The cost was about $100 / day, but this was almost 10 years ago, so I guess it went up by now. This isn't really competitive as travel, but if you consider the experience of being on a container ship a holiday in itself, the cost was quite reasonable IMO.

There was one other passenger on board, and we could go anywhere on the ship without an escort except the engine room. I really enjoyed it, but its not for everyone as there is no communication / internet access available so you have to be the sort of person who can entertain yourself.

Also wouldn't go if you get seasick easily. Unlike say cruise ships, the crew isn't too worried about passenger comfort, and wil just plow straight through storms.

I've never travelled through Suez, but did some other canals like Panama and Kiel. Autopilot won't be used there I'm sure. Canal Authority requires having a Pilot onboard and he gives commands to the Helmsman.

Even on the open sea I've never seen that the autopilot actually steers the ship, it will only keep the heading, and sound an alert when there is time to change heading. So the watchkeeping Officer will set new heading and steer the ship in a new direction.

> while the auto pilot makes a slight adjustment every few hours?

Ah, that explains it.

> I'm not sure how exciting it would be.

Right now it would be pretty exciting.

> I'm not sure how exciting it would be.

I'm pretty sure that is a feature not a bug. Kinda like servers... if something is exciting it means something went wrong.

It definitely has. Thanks for the recommendation, I'll be checking it out!

Tengential but I am always curious what software these huge logistics company use to manage their business. From my outsider's perspective, it seems like a best-in-class-software enabled company would have a massive advantage over the rest.

Interested to hear if anyone has insights about this

I’m a software engineer at one of these global logistics companies.

The market is extremely competitive. We are one of the biggest in the business, and we only capture small percent (I heard 3% before) of market share.

We build event driven systems primarily glued together with Kafka. There are thousands of deployed products.

I'm interested to read about this if you've got links to related blogs or such.

On the logistics business side, I’ll admit that my knowledge is from the day-to-day and don’t read a lot outside of work.

Our company does have plenty of marketing material of course: https://www.chrobinson.com/en-us/about-us/technology/robinso...

I could ask some of the data science folks I know in the org if they have blogs, I’d be curious about that as well.

We have a blog that slowed down during covid (we’ve been very busy), but here’s one post about a serialization library we open-sourced: https://engineering.chrobinson.com/technology/inside-chr-avr...

Thanks for sharing these links, it's a good peek inside the company! Idk if reality lives up to the marketing but those videos made it look like an interesting place to work at

flexport? (Sorry that's the only company I can think of that does something along those lines)

There were some interesting profiles following the NotPetya attack on Maersk in 2017 where Maersk claimed to have 1,200 - 1,500 applications, 49,000 laptops, 6,200 servers.

Maersk are entering into block-chain "distributed ledger technology" with IBM and similar modern solutions. But one article put $300 of every $2,000 of shipping costs for administration and paperwork[0].

I think you're right, there is a massive advantage to be had, and companies are chasing that advantage. But from my (tangential logistics) background, even the biggest shipping companies have the usual range of legacy systems, heavy administration overhead, plenty of paperwork, excel-based-tools and huge integration headaches.

0 - https://www.supplychaindigital.com/technology-4/maersk-and-i...

> 300 of every $2,000 of shipping costs for administration and paperwork

Damn that's a lot. I understand this is a capital intensive industry so I guess it's hard/impossible to get in now but it seems like if someone started a competitor from scratch and had great software as the foundation of their company, they'd make a killing

A good deal of it probably has to do with how crazy customs gets in every single port, and how to properly insure goods. (Lloyd’s of London got its start in marine insurance.)

If your paperwork is mostly driven by other actors tech probably won’t help all that much. Tech has not made significant inroads in disrupting American health insurance, for example.

Is there a reason these customs processes can't be simplified? Or is it due to some perverse capitalist reason, like TurboTax lobbying against simpler tax code?

- Every set of goods has its own regulations. Ships carry all sorts of goods.

- Every country has different customs regulations, so paperwork is not really that reusable across ports.

- Customs is a huge source of fraud. In poorly managed countries it is one of the prime vectors for bribery and corruption. So destination ports have to verify everything even if they do receive the paperwork, because there’s no trust.

Generally speaking if you want to cut customs red tape your options are some kind of free trade deal (which is not necessarily popular and never covers all types of goods), or banding together with a bunch of different countries to submit to one supranational entity like the EU. In fact we have a live example of how complicated customs arrangements can be; look at how trade from UK to EU has been disrupted by Brexit and the introduction of customs.

Here in Norway it's mostly been a lack of focus and money.

The government doesn't seem to consider the huge hidden cost to the businesses in the country this represents, and the businesses haven't been stellar at highlighting it, which I guess is because they mostly just push that cost onto the consumers.

One big factor is simply that a customs authority can dictate whatever process it wishes for ships who want to load/unload cargo there.

It's also not just customs, there are a ton of ancillary processes related to berthing - things like harbor fees, environmental documentation etc.

I know of at least one case where, as recently as ~2015, a shipping company had to keep around old machines with IE8 because that was the only way to interact with authorities at a given port.

15% overhead is actually pretty low all things considering.

Yeah the cost for paperwork and administration in aviation is over 50%.

This is an extraordinary claim. Obviously some of the prior costs are due to paperwork, but really?


That doesn't break it down in the same way - what percentage of "labor" is "administrative overhead" for example.

Everyone has to do paperwork, but is that 'admin overhead' it an essential part of safety culture? I'm struggling to see where the overhead is that significant.

It is a lot more obvious in other fields -- medicine and highly regulated/litigious professions.

"great software"


"from scratch"

it does not compile, I guess it's just like those ERP Systems - you don't need shitton of domain knowledge, because you need fuckton of domain knowledge and during development you'll learn even more and have to refactor a lot of stuff frequently for edge cases.

https://xkcd.com/1831/ relevant xkcd

> had great software as the foundation

This is obviously something that affects how competitive you can be. As an example, our software allowed a customer to go from 5-6 hours of work in their previous application, to less than 10 minutes in ours for a typical workload.

However, a big remaining issue is that there's a lot of local laws and procedures around which are not exposed in a computer-friendly way. If they are computerized they're often old systems with serious limitations.

For example, import declarations in Denmark is limited to only 99 goods items, so consolidation of goods items is almost required, especially in e-commerce settings, which again makes it more difficult if things are re-exported (customer didn't want that jacket say).

This can't be fixed on the commercial side, it requires work by the government agencies.

There was a very interesting Omega Tau podcast about this very subject a while back. They go into a lot of detail about the optimization problem and how they address it.


Also: a plug for Omega Tau, one of my favorite podcasts. https://omegataupodcast.net

Edited to add: go to the Archive page and scroll down. About half the episodes are in English and half in German.

In 2016 John Willis was with Docker and he gave a talk where he casually recommended a book called The Box [1] about how shipping containers have shaped the modern world. When I was reading it there was a part where they talk about how the logistics optimization problem caused the major shippers to be some of the earliest adopters of computers. Interesting book.

[1] - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/316767.The_Box

That book has a lot of interesting lessons to draw from [1] and that was even before they became a ubiquitous analogy for various things related to software containers. Sun's Jonathan Schwartz was talking up this book in the late 90s.

Three I picked out were:

- Existing infrastructure matters (e.g. SuezMax)

- Standards matter (container size and handling needed to be standardized)

- Process matters (e.g. containers needed changes to the way loading and unloading was done, and hence changes to labor agreements, at major ports)

[1] https://www.cnet.com/news/three-lessons-from-the-shipping-co...

The podcast "Containers" also covers how shipping containers have shaped the mordern world — well worth a listen, though I don't recall it mentioning this aspect of their logistics.

Also tangential: I'm not sure about the real-life software itself, but IIRC, the example app in Eric Evan's Domain Driven Design is a shipping logistics app!

Who wants to start a company to disrupt logistics software like? Closest thing I can think of is Flexport.

Well there's Flexport.

Partially refloated! [1] Apparently they're going to move it aside so traffic can start to get through.

[1] https://twitter.com/GlobalHogg/status/1374709733614100487

Nope, still stuck as of this post. It's easy to check:


The original link says that this is apparently a misinformed rumor.

Footage of the backlog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhSzxe0FuIE

Presumably in the Gulf of Suez.

Its just incredible how big the world is and how much stuff is getting produced and consumed. These ships are huge.

Video was removed.

Ha, I happened to see it leave Boston August of last year and snapped a photo of it because it was jaw dropping big (and I’m not a boat person!) the Evergreen had 4 tugboats guiding it. Yeah that thing isn’t moving without professional help. https://photos.app.goo.gl/6Ywgot5wmK6HDNoV6

Edit: so this is the “ever living” that’s 335 meters long. The ever given is 400 meters long

Yeah, don't take this the wrong way but your pic doesn't do it justice at all, looks pretty normal sized from your picture.

That's another ship. The tweet is about "Ever Given", not "Evergreen".

Edit: Comparing with https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_container_ship... it might or might not have been the ship. Evergreen is the name of the company: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evergreen_Marine

Evergreen is one of the shipping companies from Taiwan. Incidentally, one of my favorite airlines EVA Air is their spinoff airline, based in Taipei (and far better than the flag carrier China Airlines)

The ship is Japanese operated by Taiwanese company, according to NHK News this evening in Japan. The ship ran aground due to bad weather conditions, poor visibility due to sand storm.

Evergreen is the company. Ever Given is the ship.

Same one - check out the pictures in the OP. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/ExL7VGtVoAYIBKo?format=jpg&name=...

Looking at GP's foto again I believe the name of the ship they photographed ends with a 'G'. But I also realized my mistake with mixing up the ship's name with the company name.

There you have it, shows you how much I know about boats, although the more I’ve been reading this thread the more interested I am about learning more about the industry.

Hey, I am in Boston, which park is that? Looks great to have a walk.

That’s Castle Island and it is quite lovely: https://goo.gl/maps/rwbW9JkYURonQpE99

Thanks :)

The exif data is on that photo, but i recognized it as castle island, and the exif confirmed. really nice park to watch sea and air ships.

Good job wearing a mask and social distancing!


As of 2330 (GMT+2) M/V EVER GIVEN, no. 5 in the 23rd of March NB convoy remains #grounded in the #SuezCanal.

Vessel no. 6, 7 & 8 will be assisted by tugs back to Suez anchorage area, clearing space for M/V EVER GIVEN to be towed out the same way as she entered once re-floated. https://t.co/ltXEyRZtqX

Looks like it's going to take a while...


"The #grounding of M/V EVER GIVEN in the #SuezCanal has caused transit delays. Current traffic situation is as follows:

71 vessels at Suez Anchorage awaiting NB transit

79 vessels awaiting SB transit of which 34 are anchored at Great Bitter Lake & 45 at Port Said Outer Anchorage"

150 vessels blocked

Re-floating operation has been temporarily suspended and will resume Thursday morning.

Can anybody speak as to why they are able to get the ship no longer stuck horizontal, but still need to drag it out the way it came? Why can't it just go forward on the path it was headed on?

Because it ran its front into ground, it's not just grounded. See front picture: https://mobile.twitter.com/jsrailton/status/1374725707738267...

How does a huge ship like that get stuck in that orientation wrt. the canal? These things don't really turn on a dime I presume.

Edit: Go to https://www.myshiptracking.com/ and use the Playback button with timestamp 23/03/2021 06:15:00 to see the ship drifting left and right.

From one of the twitter threads on the topic: "power blackout".

So likely the ship was uncontrollable and drifted into the bank. There seems to be evidence that there its bulbous bow is embedded in the bank.

As I shared in another comment according to NHK News in Japan, poor visibility due to sand storm was the cause. It is a Japanese ship operated by Taiwanese company.

Can you find that tweet again? I'm scouring every link I can find and I seem to have lost it.

In particular, there was one where someone said another ship behind them _also_ lost power/control around the same time and almost rear-ended them. I would really love to find that tweet again.

Aha, that explains. The sheer inertia of a ship like this, almost unimaginable. That'll jam that bow in there good.

Thanks for describing how the playback feature works, there's another vessel two back that ran into trouble as well:


a video from 4 months ago, what it normally looks like to transit the canal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwdU2cYRbnM

At the end of the video he says that he estimates the transit toll for his ship to be around 200,000$. Wow!

Some back-of-the-napkin calculations: The ship's got over 20k containers, so less than $10 per container. Shipping a container from Asia to Europe costs thousands of dollars, so passing through the canal is less than 1% of the cost. Sounds fair to me?

The ship in the video is not a container ship but a taker or bulk cargo ship, so you cannot calculate this way. But I am sure it is not much if you divide the toll fee by total shipping cost or even the value of the cargo. It was just the total sum that I found impressive.

Oh, good point - I mixed it up with Ever Given. Agreed $200k is a lot, but probably totally insignificant compared to the major costs (fuel, wear & tear).

Maintaining the channel seems to be a lot of work... like when ships crash into the bank and block it.

One interesting thing is the toll often fluctuates due to the oil price.

If the toll is deemed to be too high a vessel always has the option of going around the Cape.

Realistically it's always an option but the added time plus the additional wear on a vessel makes it undesirable.

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