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Suez Canal says traffic in channel resumes after stranded ship refloated (reuters.com)
1068 points by WJW on March 29, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 569 comments

A great Twitter thread with many articles/resources if you want a critical lens at the global logistics supply chain.


I found this article on the impact on super-sized ships on logistical infrastructure useful and fascinating. It describes how the creation of ships too big to fit in the Panama canal (post-PANAMAX ships) was received by 1) Panamanians 2) East Coast / Gulf Coast ports 3) West Coast ports. The Panamanians spent billions expanding their channel to bring port fees and promote attendant value-add services. Ports across the East and Gulf coasts overinvested in trying to make their port the preferred one for these new ships. Clearly, not every port can recoup investments in higher cranes and deeper harbors. There was an irrational optimism on the East Coast, as they sought to take business away from West Coast transhippers (dock in Southern California and ship to the east by train.) In response, the West Coast logistics industry sought and received a series of infrastructure improvements to make transshipment from their ports viable. So, just a few shipping companies are able to increase the size of their ships (for economies of scale) and end up having a major impact on billions of investment dollars in more than a dozen cities. Policy makers in the US aren't able to pick just a few cities to focus investment in. How can you tell a city that they aren't going to get those jobs? Perhaps the US should set a maximum ship size to prevent this wastage of resources; but one could argue the efficiencies for consumers could be worth it.


The size of these ships keeps increasing at an astonishing rate. See the chart in this excellent talk: https://youtu.be/gdkvAXcZD7U?t=892

Moreover, the hydrodynamic effects of these large ships in relatively shallow and narrow canals is underappreciated. We're liable to see more such incidents as ships get bigger and bigger.


>the hydrodynamic effects of these large ships in relatively shallow and narrow canals is underappreciated

I'm really surprised I haven't seen this mentioned. A long time ago, I was trained as a merchant ship's navigation officer. One of the things we were taught (but unfortunately had few opportunities to practice), was using "bank cushion" or "bank suction" to use the hydraulic interaction between the hull and a narrow body of water like a river to navigate tight curves. These days, there are simulations that I'm sure capture these effects to it's easier to get some experience with them.

Of course, in the case of the Ever Given it seems that the grounding was mainly due to not compensating for the strong cross winds.

That and going ridiculously fast during a sandstorm.

Juan Brown/Blancolirio channel has a good overview and he touches on hydronic interactions you reference too: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5iyn2q6s1Sk

I learned about the bank effect from this article


There is one thing I cannot find an answer for: Why did it draw a penis?

Boredom. Because of covid-19 and the fact that no particular nation is required by maritime law to take on shoreleave-seekers, crews have been at sea for between 2 to 3 times a standard rotation. You find your own way to make your fun.

It is pretty funny though. I have to imagine the captain realizing his track had been discovered is every developer who ever put a comment like /* this is stupid but I'm doing it because my boss is also stupid */ somewhere in a million lines of code, thinking it would never come up in an audit.

> ... not compensating for the strong cross winds.

Not compensating or not being able to compensate? One implies negligence, the other unavoidable.

> Unavoidable

Not really, weather forecasts are readily available and windage calculations are a thing.

Oh gosh why didn't the expert sailors whom all have many years of experience think about this trivial matter?

Or could it be that navigating a 400mx60m, 220,000 tonne, 60m tall ship through a canal that is barely double the width with only 4m clearance is just a tad more difficult than that?

Well quite, that's why they might have waited for more favourable conditions instead of trying to take such a big ship through in force 7 'near gale' with poor visibility due to a sandstorm. Seems like a risky thing to do, no? Here's the risk assessment: Can you see where you are going? No. Is it harder to go in a straight line than normal? Yes. Is there anything nearby to hit? Yes.

But the crew of the ship never do close quarters manoeuvring anyway it is the job of the local pilot to get the ship to near to the dock and tug crews who berth it. Maybe in the future the canal will change their risk assessment to hold ships this large when the weather conditions are unfavourable. Or maybe this is at the pilot's discretion already, but there was a 'human factors' issue as there is a post elsewhere suggesting that there might have been some friction with the pilot who was meant to be giving helm orders but was refusing to do so? Who knows?

I don't know if you read this account that was posted here last week [0], but you'll note that there is quite a lot of "pilot's discretion" going on, mostly their discretion to say "that's enough cartons of cigarettes". They do mention wind conditions delaying them, but it's not clear what the threshold might be (or whether a sandstorm might kick up suddenly).

[0] http://www.sailsafely.com/suez_canal.htm

As long as we're idly speculating...

Vessel has a schedule. Has to arrive at a certain berth at a certain time and is expected to only stay there for a certain maximum number of hours because another vessel will be arriving to take its place. Especially if they're already running late, there will be a lot of pressure to keep that schedule and that can lead to doing things that are usually safe, right up until they aren't.

The history of transportation, hell, the history of Mankind, is full of examples.

I believe the ft article says that they had 30 kts wind, and steered 'into the wind' to compensate. And since they were in a narrow canal, a sudden lull in the wind was enough.

That doesn't contradict the 'going too fast' though. Just like we don't drive 55 mph in a residential neighborhood, thinking 'if a kid runs into the street that is not my fault, it was unforeseeable'.

With a ship of this size couldn't they have the same problem if they go too slow?

Yes. The ship needs to have a certain amount of water going over the rudder to effect steering.

> Policy makers in the US aren't able to pick just a few cities to focus investment in.

Policy makers in the US aren't even able to repeal Jones Act, with its disastrous consequences for US shipping industry. You can't expect much from them.

What is the Jones Act and what are its consequences, disastrous and otherwise?

You got a good response from someone else below, but here is an example of insanities Jones Act leads to. There have been companies running LNG vessels, sailing from Russia to Northeastern US, selling Russian natural gas there, and then sailing south to buy American natural gas in southern states for much lower price, and than sailing back east to sell it in Europe or further east. Northeastern states buy expensive Russian gas instead of cheap American gas, because there is no vessel that could ship gas from south to north: because of Jones Act, it would have to be American built American operated vessel, and such vessel quite simply does not exist.

The Jones Act[0] requires that goods transported by water between US ports to fly under the US flag, use ships constructed in the US, owned by US companies, and be crewed by US citizens. This results in a substantial cost increase for water traffic. It's otherwise quite cheap to transport goods by water but because of the act highways and trucks are used instead. An OEDC study[1] found that repealing the act would benefit the economy from $19-64 billion.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merchant_Marine_Act_of_1920

[1] https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/science-and-technology/local-c...

Maybe it's easier to read that Twitter thread here: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1375868552129863681.html

The Suez canal has also increased in size over time, it's cross sectional area has steadily increased.

Fantastic thread! Thank you for sharing. This has dramatically expanded my "to read" list

You, sir, are a gentleman and a scholar.

Lots of articles quote a $XXX billion dollars per day figure, but those numbers are normally for "worth of goods delayed" which, while interesting, doesn't tell the story to me.

Are there any estimates as to the actual cost of this "mishap", due to e.g. spoilage, financial/contractual repercussions of late deliveries, personnel/fuel costs?

Probably the actual cost will require an army of accountants and lawyers at a dozen major logistics corporations arguing with each other for months to even try to compute. I doubt us regular uninvolved people will ever get a "real" number.

How do you even try to calculate and reveal the cost associated with say a manufacturer in the middle of a supply chain deciding to source their parts from a different vendor for this run because their usual source was delayed due to the Suez blockage and they didn't want to leave their factory idle?

Agree it's incalculable, I don't mean that in the "it's too big of a number" sort of way but in the "we can't possibly know" kind of way:

1) The scale and depth of the disruption makes it impractical to figure in any kind of accurate way and

2) The disruption will have introduced hypotheticals that nay spiral out themselves (butterfly effect style) e.g. some retailer may have lost a customer who went elsewhere, some supplier may have lost a retailer who went elsewhere, etc

> The disruption will have introduced hypotheticals

In general, temporary disruption has some long-term positive economic effects (which is directly why 'disruption' is valued in Silicon Valley).

For example, during London Tube Strikes, commuters find different and more efficient routes and 5% ended up permanently changing their route on public transport: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/tube-strike...

This happened with the bridge collapse on I-85 in Atlanta [1]

I used to take the access road parallel to the bridge and avoid a lot of traffic that was south bound. When the bridge collapsed and I-85 was blocked off, everyone learned about the parallel access road, and it now became a cluster of a traffic hot zone too.

Prior to that, a lot of people were not aware of the alternate route.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_85_bridge_collapse

I’ve seen this happen to a lot of my favorite shortcuts in the east bay since the introduction of waze.

The discovery of the alternate route by "everyone else" means that the roads are now in more usage.

Unless the bridge collapse resulted in increased traffic levels afterwards, the same traffic that used to go over I85 is now distributed over 2 routes.

While there's a net negative to you, it's likely that a lot of people ended up saving time on their routes.

> it's likely that a lot of people ended up saving time on their routes.

It's theoretically possible this describes a Braess paradox, whereby everybody loses: https://image.slideserve.com/280060/braess-s-paradox-l.jpg

This reminds me of annealing, and why it's implemented as a technique for finding optima.

I'm not blocking the canal, I'm testing robustness!

Also in the big picture with covid not being as deadly as it could have been, could serve as a nice dress rehearsal for a captain trips.

We theoretically may have avoided, for the next few decades, the risk of a truly dangerous infectious disease being underestimated, something halfway between Covid and extinction-level threat.

Given the sheer quantity of idiots underestimating it right now, I'm not too sure that things will have improved a few decades down the line.

I think it's hopeful humanity would prevail a more deadly pandemic, many countries closed borders very quickly and there are island nations with understandably quick responses. Civilization as we know it could definitely still get wiped out though.

That's a great tshirt slogan "I'm not blocking the canal, I'm testing robustness!"

Think of the EverGiven as global shipping's chaos monkey....

Yup, just think of covid. It has accelerated digitization of the world in an unprecedented way, amongst the many other world changes it has caused.

That article doesn't link to the study and leaves out major questions about the methodology:

1. How did they decide that the benefits would continue over the course of 4 years?

2. How did they determine what "time lost" was? I imagine it's greater than just extra time waiting at the station. People probably also got lost trying to find a new way around, and were late to things important to them. Unexpectedly being late to a job interview is a very different kind of time lost than saving 3 minutes on your regular daily commute.

You can get a rough idea by thinking of this as if it were a natural disaster, and from that perspective I think the toll is probably not too bad. No casualties, very little property damage, and a week is not really all that long.

However... that is no excuse to shrug this off. We were very, very lucky that it was only a week. The ship could easily have broken in two, which would have been a catastrophe of the first order and likely shut the canal down for a year. The world dodged a major bullet here.

After Egypt intentionally blocked the Suez Canal during the Six Day War and an operation was taken to reopen it after the Yom Kippur War it took around 7 months to clear the ships that were scuttled to block it[1]. I would think a cleanup with more modern technology dealing with a ship that wasn't scuttled for the purpose of blockage would take less time.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1974_Suez_Canal_Clearance_Oper...

The 1974 operation involved ten ships, the largest of which was 6700 tons. The Ever Given displaces 220,000 tons. It's an entirely different beast.

Its large, but its size is limited by sues canal. Ships could be much larger if they were designed for a different route.

Only Qmax and Chinamax are higher.


This has a rather odd diagram, and I'm not sure if it supports your comment or not.

It shows Suezmax as having "unlimited length", while Chinamax is given as 360 meters, which I think is smaller than Ever Given.

Obviously unlimited length can't be literal, if the Suez isn't perfectly straight, right?

On the other hand the Chinamax diagram says "unlimited air draft" which again, can't be literal since at some point it would be impossible to keep upright?

The Chinamax designation seems to imply a greater draft, which does make sense, but it's only 20% greater than the greatest stated for Suezmax.

Chinamax means ships that can use specific harbours, which imposes a length limit. Panamax likewise has a length limit because the ship has to fit inside the locks in the Panama Canal.

The Suez Canal doesn't have locks, so in principle the length isn't limited. In reality it of course is limited by the harbours you intend to use. Apparently ships longer than 400m also require permission from the Suez Canal Authority.

More important for the claim that Chinamax is bigger is the tonnage. Chinamax can carry 400,000 tonnes, while Suezmax is typically under 200,000 tonnes.

> Obviously unlimited length can't be literal, if the Suez isn't perfectly straight, right?

It looks to me from the map like the tightest turns in the canal are the southern exit near Suez, and the turns between Timsah Lake and El Qantara el Sharqiya (depending on which channel you're in, and whether you're allowed to use both channels in your turning maneuvers).

It would be a fun problem to find a good way to figure this out exactly, but it looks to me like a ship 3000 to 4000 meters long would not be able to complete those turns even in principle without running aground. (Presumably the actual practical limit is a lot lower.)

The longest ship ever built (which exceeded the draft limits for Suezmax, so it was out for a different reason) was 458 meters long


... so there might still be an order of magnitude to play with if you were making a ship that was ideally small and maneuverable in other regards.

I am not an expert but what I think they mean by 'unlimited' in this context is 'limited by engineering, not limited by 'geology of man made structure.'

While our ships have grown greatly, so has our ability to salvage them at the same time.

Worldwide salvage capacity isn't up much. Mammoet Salvage and Titan Salvage exited the business a few years ago. Smit is one of the few salvors with worldwide reach and their own heavy equipment. The business requires huge equipment on standby, and trained people waiting for the next crisis.

Smit is now part of Boskalis, which is a big marine engineering firm. They have dredgers, heavy lift ships, tugs, and barges, which are useful both for marine construction and for salvage. So the fleet can do other things between crises.

That feels like the kind of non-obvious claim that should come with a source (even just a blog post by an analyst that lays out the relevant vocab terms and the general theory).

That's no joke. Salvage operations is such a fascinating topic, which I'm sure many (me included) found themselves quickly obsessed with. The sagging and hogging threshold of this ship is the critical key here. I'm curious how close/or not the hull came to being compromised.

That's why Smit has naval architects on staff, and the program Hecsalv.[1] They will have calculated the limits of how much the stern could be pushed without damaging the bow before pushing it.

[1] https://www.herbert-abs.com/hecsalv

The canal revenues were down about $15m/day. If it really cost $7b a day, then Egypt is massively undercharging.

Not necessarily. I pay only $1 a day for water, but if you stop giving me water for 7 days the damages are going to be a lot more than $7. That doesn't mean it's reasonable to charge me more than $1 per day for water.

Obviously an extreme example, but the situation with this ship is likely similar. The damages probably far exceed the $15m/day in revenue (though I suspect they are far lower than $7b per day).

The reason water is cheap is because it's plentiful; there's a lot of competition to supply it. But there's only one Suez canal and sailing around Africa is much worse. So you would expect Egypt to be extracting a significant portion of the value the Suez canal adds.

You're forgetting about the stick, namely, the literally armies backing these massive shipping companies.

If you're going to run an extortion racket, you need the power to secure yourself against the inevitable challenges to your station. Egypt is in no position to handle and armed threat from the US, China, or even most European nations. Their government would be toppled and a sympathetic one would be installed who would lower shipping prices to something on the cheap side of fair.

Egypt is in no position to handle and armed threat from the US, China, or even most European nations

A little history https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suez_Crisis

The Suez Crisis's failure by the British and French had nothing to do with Egypt beating them militarily, and had everything to do with American pressure. One of the West's biggest strategic failures.

The Israel, British, and French insurrection completely dominated the Egyptians. The US wanted to carry favors with Egypt to prevent them to falling into the communist sphere, so it applied a pressure campaign against the British and French that completely wrecked the European economies (and from which they never really recovered). It didn't work, Egypt did not become an American ally in any meaningful way, and instead the West lost control over one of the most important shipping lanes in the world, turning it into a corrupt mess where you have to pay for passage in cigarette boxes and bribes.

It was one of the biggest foreign policy fuck-ups of the USA, in my opinion.

So… if somebody gets a monopoly on the water supply to an area, you think a price hike is reasonable?

Oh, wait, water's already a monopoly: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_monopoly

1. We're not talking about what's reasonable, but what's expected.

2. This isn't like a monopoly on water supply, because the ships don't have to go this way. To make the analogy work you'd have to add something like "everybody already has a well, but supplying tap water is cheaper than using a well". In such a situation, a water company that's maximizing profits would charge just a little bit less than using a well, and while it would annoy people it wouldn't harm them.

3. The government stops water companies from gouging for the good of the citizens, which isn't a factor here.

Everybody has access to rainwater, except the people who don't. I think the analogy works quite well re point 2 (though not point 3).

We could argue about how fitting it is, but I'll just say this:

If we want to go with "everyone has suitable access to rainwater for important household use", then it changes the impact of the water company overcharging. It goes from despicable to mundane.

In the US there are extensive laws about capturing rainwater, whether you can use rain barrels, etc. although it's no longer prohibited in any state.


The subject was predicting the cost of the boat getting stuck by comparing to the known cost to Egypt. The moral aspects of the water situation don't transfer across the analogy unless you also think that Egypt are charging less than they could because they think they have a moral obligation to shipping companies.

The houses just 100 yards away from me have wells for water. There is a large upfront cost of making the well but after that you have "free" water other than the electricity for the pump.

In some countries (Latvia being the example I'm familiar with), water from artesian wells is considered a limited resource and it's taxed.

Yes, but you said it yourself, the value the Suez canal adds, compared to going the long way. It's much smaller than the value of being able to ship from A to B at all.

There is no major city with two independant water supplies, with their own sets of pips, purification systems and suers. Thays what water supply means. So no, there is no competition, and a supermarket water bottle is not competition.

> That doesn't mean it's reasonable to charge me more than $1 per day for water.

This is where someone steps in and says something to the tune of "Whatever price you're willing to pay is by definition reasonable" and completely ignore the ethical/moral issues with essentially holding someone's life for ransom by charging the maximum price they can get for something they need to survive.

Looks like you stepped in to say it!

The suez is the site of massive imperial intervention. The Suez crisis was precipitated when Egypt nationalized the canal. Western militaries and economic leverage are deployed to keep the prices low for the benefit of those governments.

It's a huge mistake to regard any international trade in the middle east as regulated by simple supply and demand curves. This is a site of world geostrategic focus, usually at the expense of the people that live there.

It's not 100% negative - clever Egyptian governments have managed to charge an extra "price" in diplomatic and geopolitical advantage. e.g. using selective closures as a weapon, selective opening to military traffic as an incentive. You just have to be careful not to take actions that affects everyone, like a massive and "unreasonable" price hike; these invite the kind of great-power consensus against you that is very dangerous.

(Interestingly, both have been practiced towards Israel at different times, as the countries have gone from bitter enemies to cautiously aligned against both Iran and Sunni Islamism of the Brotherhood/Hamas flavor.)

Someone else in one of these canal threads said that Egypt charges slightly less than it would cost to sail around Africa. If that's true, that Egypt is probably capturing around as much value as is possible from the canal.

That example was pretty idealized, starting and ending very close to the canal. Most voyages are probably not affected quite as starkly by the canal, and I doubt the canal can or does charge ships based on their overall itinerary.

> I doubt the canal can or does charge ships based on their overall itinerary

You'd be wrong there! They actually have a rebate system[0] based on a number of factors including origin and destination. Basically, they try to make it so that its always cheaper to go through the canal, rather than sail around.

[0] https://www.wilhelmsen.com/ships-agency/suez-canal/suez-cana...

Depends.. their fees are likely based on the saved time/cost of circling Africa, and calculated so as not to encourage other nations to construct workarounds themselves (if that’s even geographically feasible).. not on the cost of their service being down once people are already committed to it.

The cost to traverse the canal is likely to be as close as possible to the cost of the alternative routes (eg Cape of Good Hope) that Egypt can make them, while still providing the advantages of saved time and operational cost.

The cost here was for the interruption to the schedules, not the daily cost of operations normally.

I doubt it. It’s a significant source of revenue for a country with limited revenue sources.

End of the day, the big shippers can price in the two week delay to round Africa, and higher tolls could make a competing railway feasible. As it is China will probably have built a rail corridor in a few decades.

Pretty sure there are literal treaties in place. It’s not simple supply and demand.

Ha! I never thought I'd see a patio-style charge more to a govt. Only on hn...

There is no major bullet here. Nowadays the alternative route around Africa takes 10 days only.

10 days is not a big deal if it's just one shipment. It's a huge deal if it affects every ship that would otherwise have gone through the canal, i.e. 50 ships a day, 18,000+ ships a year. That's 180,000 extra ship-days per year. That's a pretty major bullet in an economy built on just-in-time inventory control.

Aside from the additional ships, you need additional containers, employees, etc. It also costs more in bunkers, etc. For JIT it wouldn't matter too much though. As long as it arrives on schedule it would be ok.

> 2) The disruption will have introduced hypotheticals that nay spiral out themselves (butterfly effect style) e.g. some retailer may have lost a customer who went elsewhere, some supplier may have lost a retailer who went elsewhere, etc

And some retailers and suppliers may have gained customers

> some retailer may have lost a customer who went elsewhere, some supplier may have lost a retailer who went elsewhere, etc

But then that also created profits for another supplier!

And the increase in profits of that second supplier might surpass the losses of the first supplier if the customer made their original decision based on cost. You can frame this as increasing economic output. Let's break all the canals[1].

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_broken_window

But the customer will end up paying more! It's a never-ending problem!

(Increasing economic outputs by breaking all canals is the perfect example of why I'm always worried about gradient descent)

That is why most of the people are fine with $XXX million per day as it is not practical to narrow it down to thousands of dollars.

We lost $100 millions, so it does not matter if it was $10k or $20k more or less because that is less than 1% of the total. There is no meaningful decision you can make based on that 1% difference.

For spoilage etc., most of it would be insured, I assume, so insurance claims would likely be a solid proxy for estimating one aspect of impact.

I'm gonna assume the insurance companies will know by the time this is all over.

This makes me question that shouldn't we have another canal built? Like if so much of the world's economy depends on this route shouldn't we build an extra canal to speed up the transportation and also act as a redundancy

It should be pointed out that the northern part of the canal has a second canal running parallel. The southern portion is the only part that has only a single passage.

Political instability is definitely a contributing factor to the fragility of the southern corridor.

Israel at some point was considering setting up a rail track between Eilat and the rest of the country. The main benefit of doing so is that cargo ships could unload and Eilat (red sea) and have cargo transported to a port in the mediterranean sea. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-speed_railway_to_Eilat

That plan was frozen after the Egypt-Israel peace agreement.

It's been floated after the peace treaty too; it's just unlikely to justify the massive cost, now that the strategic consideration of bypassing an Egyptian blockade is past.

Possibly current decarbonization movement makes a new canal plan better?

It's a lot further to dig, but the next best thing would be to dig from the Persian gulf through Iraq, Syria and probably Lebanon. Not forgetting half the Persian Gulf is Iran. It's not exactly the most stable geopolitical area.

A quick look suggests that the Tigris is mostly navigable up to Baghdad, which would get you halfway there.

As an alternative (and ignoring the obviously substantial geopolitical concerns), is there a geographic reason not to dig a canal on the other side of the Sinai from, say, Aqaba to Rafah? If you had to dig that far, it would seem to be the next best option.

It's kind of hard to tell, but it looks like the Suez canal was on super flat land and I recall most of Sinai is desert. The Israel-Egypt border doesn't look that flat based on the colouring on the leading image of [1].

1. https://www.npr.org/2007/06/04/10619929/six-day-war-shaping-...

I mean, the alternative proposal was a canal through the ~3rd most violent region on the planet.

Absolutely, I imagine the insurance alone would make the Persian Gulf route unviable. Pirates is one thing, but governments confiscating boats would be a huge disincentive. The other side of the Sinai is probably much more palatable even if Egypt and Israel aren't best buddies.

Not to mention the terrorism/sabotage/non-state actor destruction opportunities that route would present that are moderately prevented on the Red Sea side (if you can get past the Horn of Africa).

I can't see Egypt approving an alternate canal that Israel would have any control over, but I could absolutely see Israel going in on a chance to a) take business from Egypt and b) add a defensive feature along that border.

Both a) and b) would require a real increase in tensions. Israel and Egypt have a cold peace, with several common enemies/interests; the prospect of a direct military confrontation is nil, and neither side will go out of their way to harm the other economically.

The terrain along the Negev route is extremely hostile. Bypass proposals have mostly focused on rail lines from Eilat/Aqaba to the large and well-developed Israeli ports on the Mediterranean, but even constructing rail lines there is quite difficult.

An underappreciated fact of Israeli and Palestinian geography is its mountains and hills; any major transportation project [1] requires extensive tunnel and bridge work.

[1] Examples: the TLV/Jerusalem high speed rail, the Haifa highway bypass, or a proposed transportation corridor connecting the main West Bank population centers along the ridge of the Judean and Samarian mountain ranges.

I'm not sure there's a path that's flat enough to make it practical even if everything else falls into place somehow.

I think you massively underestimate the cost (land, machinery, labor, upkeep) of undertaking such a project.

We did it with the Panama Canal a century ago. Granted, the Suez Canal is ~190km compared to the Panama Canal at ~80km, but it is possible.

I'm a layman, but it seems like there are probably other preventative measures that are way cheaper.

A Bloomberg article (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-27/how-a-des...) says the speed limit was 7.6 to 8.6 knots but the Ever Given was traveling at 13.5 knots. So maybe they need to start enforcing that limit.

Reportedly this was during high winds, so they could also reduce the speed limit even further in those conditions.

Or they could have Suez specialists be the ones piloting large ships through the canal rather than the ship's normal crew. (As I understand it, that's pretty standard for harbors. Not sure if the Suez already does that.)

Or maybe there's a technology solution, something like stability control for cars, except it's for ships in narrow canals.

The slower the boat travels, the closer to the wind it has to point in order to avoid being pushed into the leeward shore. (assuming it doesn't have significant thrust-vectoring capabilities at both the bow and the stern which as far as I can tell seems to be the case for large cargo ships)

Because the boat is longer than the canal is wide, for any nonzero perpendicular wind speed there is a minimum boat speed below which it would not be able to avoid running aground. The solution is to either not permit such large ships to transit the canal during high wind events or to send them with enough tugboats to counteract the force of the wind.

As is standard for canal transit, the Evergiven was piloted by a Suez pilot at the time of the accident. Because this ship's main steering force comes from the rudder, it has more force when it goes faster. Maybe they even accelerated to counter the strong winds.

Navigating canals and major harbours requires a pilot.

Pilot was on board, but there seems to have been some kind of conflict between Master and Pilot that resulted in high tension environment on the bridge.

Ever Given Master’s statement is published here, and has been circulating among the crews for a few days: http://www.maritimebulletin.net/2021/03/28/ever-given-latest...

So, some weird drama. If this is true, however, this would be a gross misconduct of behalf of the Pilot.

I don't see how the report in the linked article is related to Ever Given. It certainly isn't of the fateful trip because it's about a southbound journey.

It contains a report of the behavior of the local Pilots that are supposed guide the ship through the canal.

Last line before the report

>Read this Statement and ask yourself – can such incident lead to accident like grounding or collision?

If the professionals are not doing their job and even causing issues on the bridge;

i.e. >As soon as the master picked up the VHF and called Ismalia Port Control on Ch8, the pilot raised his volume high, started shouting, snatched the VHF from the master’s hand (which also resulted in advertently pushing the Master) and threatened that if same was reported “It will not be good for the vessel”.

>At that very moment, in his raised volume he called for fwd and aft stations and for both anchors to be lowered to water level, as he insisted on stopping the vessel and arresting vessel for faulty steering. He said vessel will be held at Bitter lake until sea trials were carried out. Fwd station was immediately manned however anchors were not lowered as ship was doing 9 knots speed.

Then it could lead to accidents.

I find that the difficult conditions at the time are sufficient to explain the accident. Maybe we'll learn that there was unprofessional behaviour by a pilot. But until such time, that is unwarranted speculation.

The linked article is a hodgepodge of random factoids and hearsay. It even confused the poster into thinking the report was from the Ever Given. Doesn't look like a good source to me.

From what I heard they’ve suffered a blackout which is an event when your power goes out.

Friends scientific boat had a same thing in Kiel canal, but only 22 meter boat and under and hour.

>it seems like there are probably other preventative measures that are way cheaper.

Like doing nothing, and sailing around Africa in the extremely rare case there's a problem.

Makes me think of: https://xkcd.com/1205/

Where do you propose building this extra canal?

Cue Elon Musk promising to build a tunnel version of it for $5 million total cost, opening fall 2022.

Of course everything has to be repacked into little tubes and back into containers on the other end, but let's not let these things get in the way of a solid plan. Elon Musk!

Perhaps adding up all the penalties all the delayed ships have to pay could cover it.

So by attempting to calculate it, the cost goes up higher.

I'm not sure the collective "we" will ever truly know. I'd imagine a LOT of that livestock died and they aren't going to be jumping up and down to volunteer how many/much given the negative PR. If they did divulge that would probably be the easiest jumping off point for hard losses.

Probably the actual "damage" that was caused will be given by the insurance companies as a sum of claims covered, but there will be a lot of companies that simply have to eat the loss incurred by idling factories and the likes because their supply contracts allow for delivery delays or because pursuing coverage isn't worth the effort (e.g. for those who still had sufficient stock to cover a week of delay and no "real" damage occurred).

A many weeks long shutdown (in case they had to unload the Ever Given) would be many orders of magnitude more expensive.

> but there will be a lot of companies that simply have to eat the loss incurred by idling factories and the likes

Factories will know enough in advance of this problem. They can fly over some supplies to keep the factory running. It's entirely normal to do this. They usually do _not_ idle or shutdown the factory. Who pays is for lawyers and so on.

A shipping company will know about these clients and prioritize that cargo.

those numbers are normally for "worth of goods delayed" which, while interesting, doesn't tell the story to me

Is it just me, but hasn't the mainstream financial news over the years taken on the feel of reality television? The talking heads are usually pushing some sort of narrative. Occasionally, reality overwhelms their ability to spin things, and they have to readjust and do damage control, as sometimes happens to the producers in a reality TV show. The aim of their manipulation and spin seems to be mainly to keep up the level of drama, just as in a reality TV show.

Real economics is boring for most people and the only way to make it attractive to the masses is to be sensationalistic. Mainstream financial news has never been good and never will be.

Real economics includes game-theoretic incentives to distort reality and craft narratives, including framing what is allowed to considered "real economics".

> Real economics includes game-theoretic incentives to distort reality and craft narratives, including framing what is allowed to considered "real economics".

You're not wrong, but you could replace "economics" with almost anything and it would still be a valid (and usually meaningful, although context matters) statement.

> Real engineering includes game-theoretic incentives to distort reality and craft narratives, including framing what is allowed to [be] considered "real engineering"

I mean how else are you going to push back against the clueless PMs who can't be bothered to learn how to code?

> Real art includes game-theoretic incentives to distort reality and craft narratives, including framing what is allowed to be considered "real art"

Of course, how else do you expect to create value for something unique that is not easily priced by the market?

> Real science includes game-theoretic incentives to distort reality and craft narratives, including framing what is allowed to be considered "real science"

I'd say this accurately describes academia. Honestly this last one is eerily insightful.

That's just news to be. Random loose correlation of events plotted into a narrative.

Facts are supposed give rise to an emergent narrative. That is good journalism. What we have in 2021, are people curating facts and only including those that fit their pre-determined narrative.

While it would be naive to pretend that pre-determined narratives aren't a huge factor, I think that model leaves something out: that journalists and organizations are often incentivized to distort the facts into arbitrary narratives, based not on values or ideology, but on virality and cognitive/emotional stickiness. "Person X is a hero" and "Person X is a villain" will both tend to outcompete nuance ("Person X is flawed but well-intentioned and has done both good and bad things.").

journalists and organizations are often incentivized to distort the facts into arbitrary narratives

Those aren't arbitrary. They are often pre-decided by higher ups in the company, or pre-decided as the prevailing groupthink in some forum or mailing list. People have been calling this stuff out online for years! Funnily enough, it stays out of the consciousness of normal people, because it's never covered in the mainstream news. Invariably, the people doing the exposing are then labeled something unsavory, so very few people bother to look into it. Some of this stuff is bunk. However, some of it is clearly real, and kinda disgusting.

Stuff like this has even been going on since the 80's: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manufacturing_Consent

No dispute: journalistic institutions are power concentrations that invite pressure from all sorts of private interests, in addition to prevailing internal groupthink. (In the Twitterati era, I'd say the latter problem is both top-down and bottom-up, and they compound much more often than they cancel out.)

What I'm saying is that even if one corrects for ideological motives, obsequiousness to power, etc., one is still left with an independent incentive towards maximizing eyeballs, and therefore torturing complex realities into digestible narratives, and that can be a problem in and of itself.

Worse: the narrative is curated to elicit pre-determined emotional reactions.

In other words: Reality TV!

Drama sells better than facts.

I wish it wasn't so, but it is.

Early on it was reported that it could take weeks to reopen the passage, with a cost of billions to the world trade. Now, just one week later it's open again, barely enough time to make the alternate route a good idea.

These rather unrealistic projections seem to have started with the Coronavirus reporting and is an interesting phenomenon in itself.

I don't think they had a previous sprint's velocity to base their estimates on; this was unprecedented.

And honestly, had the ship still been stuck on wed, tide would not be as high for another moon cycle; further complicating.

I am not sure the projections were unrealistic. The full picture simply wasn't known or even knowable. The best likely scenario with the known information was a few hours; the worst likely scenario was weeks.

it was reported that it could take weeks to reopen the passage

That's true - it could have taken weeks and the cost of spoiled or delayed cargo could have reached billions.

After a day of tugs unsuccessfully trying to free the ship, there was no reason to assume it would be a fast recovery.

But the same news that said "it could take weeks" also reported on the ongoing efforts.

Boring, facts and research based industry/financial news exists. But it can cost upwards of a couple hundred thousand dollars per year. If you want real news, you'll have to pay for it.

What are your recommendations for real news? I've heard FT, WSJ, and the economist, and am looking to finally commit and sign up instead of relying on free. You get what you pay for is true in this case, and I don't wanna put drama based narratives in my head, which form my perception of the world.

The FT:

- Good if you care about mostly business in the developed world (Europe and US). - Really, really, really good features, solid visualisation, and a fairly wide breath of writers in terms of opinions.

The Economist:

- Very opinionated, but extremely diverse coverage of lots of different parts of the world (I've never come across a better English language source on Africa, for example). - Weekly, so if you only want to read news occasionally, it may work for you


- Pretty good coverage overall, the US business/tech coverage is much better (in depth) than the FT's - Their opinion section is like the NYT in bizarro-world.

In terms of price FT > Economist > WSJ.

It really depends on what you're looking for, but the FT works for me as a daily driver (I ended my subscription to the Economist, and only signed up for the WSJ about a month ago).

Thank you, this is insightful. I fall squarely between FT & Economist, so I may end up subscribing to both, but given Economist is weekly, this might be a better match for my lifestyle.

I meant more industry specific news rather than general news. Organizations that cover niche topics, usually catering towards businesses or investors rather than the general public. In my case it's things like Covenant Review, Xtract Research, Debtwire, Reorg, etc. There are likely similar services catering to shipping and logistics that would provide better analysis on this situation than most general news organizations.

What kind of news publication costs several hundred K a year to subscribe to?

> Is it just me, but hasn't the mainstream financial news over the years taken on the feel of reality television?

I like to look at the bright side: The world has caught up with Egyptian geography. :)

They are amazing at knowing why the DJI moved up/down. Just for yesterday though. I think for tomorrow you have to subscribe.

principle agent problem and always has been ... what’s stunning is that civilization manages to create some amount of value despite this ... imagine what the world would be like if humans learned how to actually cooperate at scale and maximize long term in an antifragile way

In my bedroom as a young teenager I used to think a worldwide event which affected every person equally, like finding life in another planet, would surely usher in a new era of common interest and a shared view that we're all but the same thing: human.

I've since turned more cynical and believe that greed is as essential to humanness as empathy, if not more, and without a strong moral code (and fear of being ostracized for breaking it), selfishness wins.

The pandemic has violently dispelled any remaining expectation I had for a future cosmopolitan society.

I had high hopes for a pro-social silver lining around the pandemic as well, but it's simply too distant and indirect (especially given that the outcomes ranged so widely to those infected: from death, to the worst flu ever, to no symptoms at all).

What gives me hope is the fact that our species has altruism at all, even if it isn't as widespread as we would like; it's evidence that cooperation is at least sometimes a competitive advantage. Looking at nature, we see both symbiosis and predation as successful survival strategies. The tension between Good and Evil we will have with us always; the bad news is that Good will never definitively win, but the good news is that neither will Evil.

Thanks for commenting. That's a helpful and insightful perspective.

> I've since turned more cynical and believe that greed is as essential to humanness as empathy, if not more, and without a strong moral code (and fear of being ostracized for breaking it), selfishness wins.

It's not the baker empathy that brings you bread, but his greed

> The pandemic has violently dispelled any remaining expectation I had for a future cosmopolitan society.

The pandemic makes me hope more people will see governments for what they are: restricting their freedoms for no good reasons, so it's better to starve the beast.

What does such a number mean without context?

Imagine a toy example: 2 bakers in a street. John and Jill. John has a heart attack and his bakery is closed for the week.

- John gets nothing that week, from his perspective you could say he lost a week of sales

- The people in the street lose Johns cakes that week, but most are ok with going to Jill, as they are close enough. 50% go to jill, and the other 50 decide to save the money.

- Jill gains 50% of johns customers for the week.

How would would you even assess the "global damage" in such an example for 1 street. Let alone the global economy.

The money is there to drive things, pulling it out from one perspective is like looking at one weight in a neural network.

Not only does Jill gain 50% of John's customers for the week, but let's say that 20% of those customers decide that they actually prefer Jill's goods and stay as customers of Jill even after John has re-opened.

Yes, but some of Jill's customers come at lunch and couldn't afford to wait in the longer lines. Those customers now go to John's having waited a few days to look for an alternative. Jill gets 20% of John's clientele, but John gets more [impatient] customers than ever!

There will probably be some additional flow of customers as people realise they're too lazy to walk to Jill's/John's, Jill's was only better when they were doing the extra trade (freshness), or that Jill's is back to being quicker service (and then you have a chaotic effect as more people drift back the wait time gets longer).

The potential complexities of such simple systems are fascinating.

Late delivery penalties aren't really an economic loss, it is a wash mostly. Similarly loss of revenue is mostly a wash

The freight costs are in the range of 0.6%-3% of the cost of the goods transported on average. This is for the amortized cost of purchasing the ships, maintenance, the labor and fuel costs. If you estimate the value of the delayed goods at $10b, and the freight costs at an extra 2% that's $200m in damages.

Most food transported this way wouldn't be spoiled by a delay of a week. If 10% of the goods were food by value, and 15% of them were perishable, and they were worth half as much after being delayed delayed a week that is another $75m lost to spoilage. But it isn't always a one week delay, many ships are delayed less to start, and there will be increased congestion in the ports and ground transport for many of these ships.

If we count only missed revenues for Egypt, this incident cost them about US$100 million. Canal revenues were US$27.2 billion in the last 5 years (https://www.reuters.com/article/egypt-economy-suezcanal/egyp...) which is US$15 million in revenues per day, and the canal was closed for 7 days.

It’s probably less than that because many transits would have just been delayed, not entirely cancelled.

They run the canal at maximum capacity indefinitely. Due to the lack of downtime, any delays are in effect the same thing as a cancel from the perspective of the canal owners.

According to reports, the backlog of traffic should be cleared in about 10 days. They must have some spare capacity available in order to do that.

Maybe backlog will be cleared as result of some ships taking route around Africa?

The canal was blocked for only 6 days. Then 10 days to clear would suggest the opposite, that there is not spare capacity. All shippers have to eat a permanent delay that will never be caught backup, everyone is 10 days behind forever.

And re-routes around Africa don't count as spare capacity for the canal itself.

Of course there may be some *literal* spare capacity, that could be realized by violating processes. But the canal is in fact run at maximum capacity according to the maximum that official process allows.

> They run the canal at maximum capacity indefinitely

We have to stop doing this with all of our critical systems, it causes hiccups to be so costly.

But building everything to have a higher capacity also wastes a lot of resources! It is a balancing game.

What is so critical about the Suez Canal. If it were down for a month/year. what do you think the impacts would be? Would most ship traffic simply go around Africa?

Accepting that globalization wasn't such a big thing then, the closure between 1967 and 1975 would be a good source of objective 'what actually happened' data.

We'd have to build a lot more ships and containers and burn a lot more fuel. Consumer prices would be higher, and some products wouldn't be on shelves

Low utilization can be even more costly.

Like having nurses and doctors idling around, just in case a pandemic appears out of nowhere?

I'd start by computing the number of ships that went around the Southern tip of Africa as a result of the stuck ship. I wonder how much the cost of extra fuel and food/pay for all of those ships doing additional miles will be? And the resulting increase in wholesale/retail costs?

Regarding penalties re late delivery, I'm less worried about that. Cargo ships always have language about loss and force majeure. I think a stuck ship would qualify as force majeure. And a week shouldn't affect most perishables e.g. grain, that go into containers.

I believe that we can simply look at the channel fees lost due to the downtime - as far as I understand, the fee for using the channel is intentionally close to "the cost of extra fuel and food/pay for all of those ships doing additional miles", a bit lower but not much lower than the alternative of going around Africa.

As posted elsewhere in this thread, this guy debunks that theory:

> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iwOZOb90fM

Container ships burn horrible, cheap bunker fuel, and the shipping industry is infamous for hiring crew from low-income countries like the Philippines, paying them a pittance, and treating them like modern-day slaves.

I'd strongly suspect that the costs for spoilage and knock-on effects from late delivery etc would outstrip crew and fuel costs by a large margin.

Filipino Masters and Chief Engineers are being paid north of $8500/month. Evidently you are not well informed.

I'm not sure OP was talking about masters and chiefs (chiefes? Why does that look weird spelled both ways?).

I'm certain s/he was talking about juniors on the ships.

I don't doubt a select few senior people are well paid - but there are many, many more junior crew members that do not fit that description.

Also - rude.

Grain is usually carried by bulkers, not in containers.

Still not what you're asking for, but the analysis here looks like it's done by people who understand this sort of thing: https://lloydslist.maritimeintelligence.informa.com/LL113622...

This seems to be the key bit:

> If the canal does reopen quickly, vessels waiting now should be able to make up time without too much disruption to the supply chain, which is already weighed down by port congestion and inland transportation delays.

There is a term for the cost of just holding something you can't move: the carrying costs. Different commodities have different carrying costs, so you can look at the forward prices for wheat, oil, pork bellies and so on and get a sense for how much it costs to hold on to something for a week or a month etc.

(On rare occasions the curve is inverted)

It won't tell you how much it costs this tanker to delay delivery by a week but it will tell you on average how much "the market" values a week's delay.

It is still a chore to go through and tally all the goods but I think a few main goods (oil, wheat, coffee etc) would account for a large chunk of it and if the carrying costs as a whole would give a sense of the order-of-magnitude of the economic loss.

The loss itself may be distributed between various risk sharing parties like insurance companies and so forth.

According to this paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the average loss of value per day of delay from the cargo on these ships is between 0.6 and 2.2 percent [1]. According to other research I've seen, somewhere between 12% and 30% of daily global sea trade goes through the Suez Canal. Anyone want to do the math?

1) https://www.nber.org/digest/jun12/time-trade-barrier

Agreed that just quoting the delayed value does not tell the whole story.

But it could be a pretty good proxy: to some approximation, everything in the supply chain would be set up to work with the 9.6 Bn daily flow of value - everybody's financing payments, payroll, working capital, etc. The time is gone. Just like if you had to take two weeks off (unpaid) because you were sick, you could work more later to get that money back, and recover some of it if you work overtime, but you still missed that window to make money.

But isn't "worth of goods delayed" a reasonable figure?

For example, if there is a total of X shipping capacity a year, and no reasonably priced alternatives (or extra capacity available via rail/air/etc), then disrupting $Y worth of goods for D days reduces the total amount of goods that can be traded that year by $Y*D.

Or is there something I'm missing here?

The part you are missing is that shipping capacity/year is not hard capped.

Well, the Suez canal is optional, and comes at a cost just to use it. When the cost of fuel is low, you might opt for the long route.

But there's definitely discontinuities that emerge when the option is taken away -- oil refineries lose supply, which increases the cost of fuel, which makes the long way more expensive.

I work on an IoT product, and operations is already talking about potential production delays because of this. There's already a global plastic shortage, and this is only going to make things worse.

> There's already a global plastic shortage

Whoa, bad time to be in IoT then, since they're pretty much entirely plastic and a few (also probably short) components!



The silver lining there is that more companies should be able to absorb a double delivery when three weeks of goods all show up at once.

Most businesses can’t just skip a week and then process twice as much raw goods to catch up.

The actual cost is $$ million in total, substantially less than a billion.

Source: friend who is a merchant marine officer

I expect commodity prices and spot shipping will jump short term but long term disaster avoided.

the livestock loss will be interesting to research as it was highlighted there was a significant number of ships carry live cargo.

Odd, the Sun has a great article on this floating job


Also, are there any paths for supply chain interruption insurance to kick in?

It's too soon to determine this right now.

I don't think there will be any spoilage, the goods travelled through sea are never fresh.

LOL. The fruits in American grocery stores are not airlifted in from Brazil.

There are probably better ways to say this. If you're familiar with the industry, perhaps you could better inform the conversation.

Personally, I've always been surprised by the amount of fruit, flowers, and other perishables that do economically come in via air.

Flowers, yes. Fruits, short of the exotic, name them.

Alphonso mangos. Many other "exotics", which oftentimes just means they need special processing to clear APHIS based on their country of origin.

Landing here in Seattle, I've seen planes unload huge amounts of fruit and produce, probably bound for asian groceries stores.

I've seen high-value WA apples travel by air to India. I was a bit surprised by this one too.

Livestock is often/always transported by ship, and they are more than "fresh", they are still alive.

Whether that trade is humane is a separate question.

There are also containers that are maintained at a fixed temperature/humidity for transporting "fresh" items. They still have a limited transport time.


No. It was blocking ships with live animal cargo.


Ever Given is a container ship, containers don't carry live animals. Other ships that were stuck behind it have live animals(cattle mostly) but they are on ships specifically designed for animals.

A bit more detail here [1] and here [2]. A combination of vacuuming sand, high tide, and tugboats did the trick.

[1]: https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/03/29/Su...

[2]: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/3/29/ever-given-turned-8...

Is it just me or is the Evergiven listing to port?

There were reports I read earlier that part of the unsticking process was pumping fuel and ballast water around to remove as much weight as possible from the bow of the ship. It's probably unbalanced the ship a bit and they're just waiting to get to the lake to pause and fix it to allow shipping to resume as fast as possible.

Entirely possible. The tugs are hooked up pretty high so that could be part of it.

The other part is that they may have intentionally shifted ballast or fuel to induce a port list to assist the salvage.

I'm only seeing that on two pictures, and in both there's a tugboat attached to the top front of the ship pulling it sideways.

Oh hey, they fixed it,

- without destroying or imposing significant additional damage to any of the cargo

- without destroying or imposing significant additional damage to the ship

- without taking multiple weeks

- without needing to ship a trillion dollars'+ worth of equipment halfway around the world

It's refreshing to see high-end engineering performed so competently.

High tide did more than anything. If it had gone beyond Wednesday they likely would have been screwed as the high tide was set to start dropping each day after Tuesday. Good thing they started dredging right away.

You say that like they just got unexpectedly lucky, but all mariners are well aware of and take tides into account in their planning.

I’d be surprised if they aimed for their ship to arrive n days before the spring tide in case it got stuck. That just doesn’t sound like an efficient operation. In this case the luck was that the high tides were relatively high when it was stuck. If we were in a neap tide, we might have had to wait longer for a high enough tide to get the ship out. (But maybe if tides were lower it wouldn’t have gotten so stuck)

P.S. it isn’t exactly clear what you mean by mariner, but plenty of sailors in the Mediterranean don’t really need to care about tides as they don’t really get them there. Indeed, you shouldn’t trust any of the early modern Greek or Italian treatises attempting to explain tides as their authors didn’t really know how tides actually behaved outside the Med.

> I’d be surprised if they aimed for their ship to arrive n days before the spring tide in case it got stuck.

That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that after the ship got stuck, they certainly incorporated the tides into their plan for how to unstick it. If the tides had been less amenable, they would have come up with a different plan.

So their plan didn't get "lucky", their plan was predicated on the tides being part of the solution.

Without the high tides the amount of material needed to be removed would have been dramatically higher.

That’s the point and the absolute bit of luck. Without the high tides they likely wouldn’t have been able to get it unstuck as quickly. Search for slope/fill volume calculation charts - the amount of fill required to be removed as you go deeper is logarithmic, NOT linear.

It was VERY lucky they had the highest tides possible.

Did the ship crash during high tide or low tide? The tide 6 days ago when it got stuck compared to today is more important.

What? Tide mattered more now because it had a significant impact on getting it out quickly.

Luckily it wasn’t nearly as high when it beached itself - but if it had beached itself on the downslope of the peak tide instead of the upslope it very likely would still be stuck!

Tide when it crashed was not nearly as significant as when it got free.

I disagree, i think you got that backwards - the tide level at the time of the beaching has surely had an effect on at what point it started plowing and was being decelerated and subsequently how far in absolute numbers evergreen went into the rim.

Imagine getting stuck during spring tide vs low tide hich is more than 2m lower and would have decelerated the ever given earlier

Sure but the luck here is the number of days until a sufficiently high tide. Imagine a simple model where every 28 days you get a sufficiently high tide and every other day is not sufficiently high, and the ship gets stuck (after high tide) on a uniformly random day. Then the expected time until the ship is unstuck is 14.5 days and the luck is how close you are to the time the ship can get free.

The "spring tide", the highest of the high tides, naturally occurs twice every 28 days. This is when the Sun, Earth and Moon are in a line. So the average wait would have been ~7 days.

It's even shorter timing than that. Spring tides occur at the full moon AND the new moon. So you get two chances every lunar cycle.

That's not what he said.

Ship captains who sail on open ocean are well aware of tides. It is not too difficult to imagine somebody did 2+2 and figured out the tides are getting higher so in couple of days there is going to be better chance of freeing it.

Obviously they did not plan it. It is just an opportunity they used.

You talk about planning about an article about a container ship piloted by professionals ran aground.

So your saying they planned to only crash the ship during the high tide?

You do realize the canal operates during all tides?

So yes, it was absolute luck this accident happed right before the highest tides of the month.

I think you and the other poster are saying different things. You are saying it’s fortunate that a spring tide was coming and you are right. I think grand parent is saying that sailors are well aware of tides and as soon as the ship got stuck they would have been racing to meet the spring tide, which was planning and not luck.

I just adore that us little humans got our big boat stuck in the sand and uncle moon had to reach down and fix it for us.

Auntie Luna

The moon is masculine in Germanic mythology: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%A1ni

But there are two high tides and two low tides a day. Why did it take a week? /s

There appears to be little "high-end engineering." Just a high tide and a bunch of tug boats.

High end engineering uses the simplest and most cost effective solution to get the job done right.

It would have been a mistake to throw expensive, complicated solutions at a problem that had a relatively simple solution.

So just "engineering" then

simple is better than complex!

They built a computer model to try and manage the stress on the ship as they worked to free it. It was not straightforward as the ship could have broken if they weren't extremely careful. They also had divers inspecting the hull for signs of stress. This was a massive, complex operation.

Boskalis Peter Berdowski said it wans't a very hard job technically on Dutch television. Just the scale and impact were huge.

It's like the guy at a bar who tells you he knows how to swordfight after doing fencing. I'm sure he's right but it just funny from an official with experience basically saying "it wasn't that hard."

Boskalis is the company who brought the tugboats, engineers, diggers and whatnot over there in days. This is not a random guy commenting. This is an end-boss in charge of the entire operation.

They brought over a few tugs, but the large majority were Egyptian. Not belittling Boskalis' work in the operation, but don't think that the Egyptians don't understand maritime operations in the canal.

And I'm guessing that the operation was overseen by the Suez Canal administration, not Boskalis. Not saying that there wasn't delegation, but I'm guessing a joint management operation between the canal, the ship's management, the salvage operator and the local ship captains.

I'm sorry if it sounded like Boskalis "saved the day". I was trying to make the point that his is not a random internet person commenting on stuff. Not trying to imply that he's the one running the entire operation.

Can you image if the hull did weaken to the point of near failure? They might have needed to offload everything right there where it ran aground, lest it completely fail uncontrolled. The canal would be closed for a very long time. Luckily they didn't have to make that call.

The beauty of steel is that it will yield plastically beyond its normal design stress. It would have been possible for them to damage the ship to the point where it required significant repairs but still be capable of exiting the canal.

Luckily, indeed — but they were already planning for this contingency. Apparently (and unsurprisingly) it was going to be hard to find a large enough crane to move the containers.

That sounds terrifying for the divers

Pretty sure I've seen a definition of engineering that was "Solve the problem by doing as little new as possible".

Or "by doing as little as possible".

It's easy for me to throw together a small house, shed or bridge, but chances are whatever I build -- if it doesn't immediately collapse -- is horribly overbuilt for its purpose, because I don't know how to calculate and analyze the various stresses and material capacities well enough to size everything to a proper margin. So when I build a bridge I use lumber that is bigger than I think I need and use more of it than I think I need until it feels quite solid, but if I were a proper engineer I could figure out the exact right amount to use.

An engineer designs right to failure, and then multiplies the numbers required till he feels safe.

Sometimes the safest way to deal with the so-called legacy systems we all know and love

You forgot dredging tons of material. And dredgers have some of the more complex naval engineering out there with all its moving parts.

All jobs are easy to the person who doesn't have to do them. ~Hold's Law


This reminds me of a former boss who told me to "just add some if statements, how long can it take?"

A high tide and some tug boats becomes 'high-end engineering' if it works

Have you looked at tug boat propulsion units lately? Those things look like black magic.

You are right, these things are nuts: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voith_Schneider_Propeller

Wow this is the coolest thing I've learned this week.

I'd guess figuring out where you can safely attach the tug boats, monitoring stability and stresses on the container ship and so on is non-trivial, too.

If you fuck up bad enough those containers end up landing on the tugs, killing the crews. Not to mention increasing the quantity of stuff blocking the canal.

Wow. People here still criticising the solutions the engineers on the scene used?

anyone can build a bridge that stands. only an engineer can build a bridge that barely stands.

What I wonder about: how is such a rescue contract negotiated? There is likely willingness to pay, but it is difficult to judge what a reasonable price is, and it may not even be clear who is culpable in advance. Do they have contracts in advance with the shipping companies?


In contract salvage the owner of the property and salvor enter into a salvage contract prior to the commencement of salvage operations and the amount that the salvor is paid is determined by the contract. This can be a fixed amount, based on a "time and materials" basis, or any other terms that both parties agree to. The contract may also state that payment is only due if the salvage operation is successful (a.k.a. "No Cure, No Pay"), or that payment is due even if the operation is not successful. By far the commonest single form of salvage contract internationally is Lloyd's Standard Form of Salvage Agreement (2011), an English law arbitration agreement administered by the Council of Lloyd's, London.

That Lloyd’s contract (https://www.lloyds.com/~/media/files/the%20market/tools%20an...) is concise (2 pages).

It may incorporate the SCOPIC clause (https://www.lloyds.com/resources-and-services/lloyds-agency/...), but that doesn’t seem long, either, even including its appendices.


I would assume that Egypt paid. They have by far the biggest incentive to clear the canal asap. They will presumably now enter a lengthy legal dispute to try and get their money back from the shipping company.

My understanding is that the Suez Canal Authority will have to pay, but also that the SCA requires the use of "pilot" captains that maneuver the boats through the canal, which means that the issue was squarely the fault of the SCA.

So, like paying for emergency healthcare in the United States.

I would imagine a cost plus contract?

About the cargo part - it's entirely possible that some cargo is non-viable. It is going to be onboard days longer than predicted. Anything even faintly perishable may be degraded.

But good news for sure!

It's already a trip halfway around the world at something like 30 km/h. If you're transporting goods that are that sensitive, you're likely doing it by air already. Ships get delayed all the time for various reasons.

> It's already a trip halfway around the world at something like 30 km/h

This sounds slow at first, but, since you can drive pretty much 24/7, that's still 720km per day. If you're literally going halfway around the world (20.000km), you'll be there in 28 days. Since you drive on water, you'll do few small detours (I assume), so you can actually get those 700km a day.

EU<->China even appears to be "only" 7000 km [0], so if you could drive in a straight line you could get there in 10 days. 14 with usual delays and detours, maybe. That's a reasonable time span for a lot of perishable goods. With the blockage doubling that time, I can easily see how this would affect quite a few goods.

[0] https://www.distancefromto.net/distance-from/Europe/to/China

The ship will still likely be anchored for hull inspection, perhaps in Bitter Lake. That may take a couple of days at best, and an indefinite stranding if serious problems are discovered.

Also crew change is likely because of on-going investigations, and that will be tricky with the on-going mariner crunch. There's not a lot who are qualified to run a ULCV, especially one straight out of an accident.

In the past ships already got stuck on the Bitter Lake - for quite some time!


I think those were unloaded during the ‘delay’. If they weren’t, I guess the Wikipedia page would have mentioned something about life on the Münsterland, carrying eggs and fruit.

I would assume any perishable cargo was quickly lost to spoilage during the ongoing conflict and the rest of the cargo just staying there. There are actually interesting stories about how the crews of the stack ships got to know each other and how they spent their time during the uncertain time after the channel became impassable - they did theater plays, did sports competitions, fished for food, etc.

Over time as the political situation cleared up a bit most of the crew members were repatriated with just a periodically rotated skeleton crew watching over the ships staying behind.

Container ships can easily have an unpredicted wait of 1-2 weeks just entering port, happens all the time and isn't major news. Few days in the Suez canal isn't going to do anything to cargo.

While the Ever Given may not have an issue, the HAJH AMINA which is waiting in the Great Bitter Lake is a livestock carrier that should have been unloading in port yesterday.

Sure but the same principles apply - delays happen, and livestock ships are equipped to keep livestock alive with food and water well stocked in case they can't enter port for days(which again, happens all the time, sometimes papers aren't exactly right and the livestock has to wait on the ship until cleared for offloading)

The shipping of livestock is controversial here in NZ and some (likely high) estimates suggest a death rate of as much as 1 in 10. The issues are pretty closely tied to conditions at the other end of shipping (feedlots, slaughterhouses etc) as well as the shipping though.


I've seen this ship mentioned a couple of times. I kind of assume the subtext is that we should stop sending live animals by ship (except for perhaps specialist and breading stock), which I totally agree with, as much for the dangers of spreading disease as for an ethical concern for the animals involved.

Some tug boats did sail in from far away places.

Keeping in mind that the tugs on each side had to come from opposite directions because the canal is blocked, I expect there was a bit of a commute.

Why wouldn't it be more cost-effective or unreasonable to destroy the ship?

Problems with destroying the ship:

- A sunken super container ship in the canal, rather than a floating one. Removing the wreckage would be at least an order of magnitude more work than floating the thing away.

- Thousands of containers floating / sunk in the canal. How much damage can one of those do to the propeller of a ship?

Thank you, I know it's a dumb question. Wondering about the cost/effectiveness of demolition of the ship vs the daily costs of having the canal blocked. I thought it might be like using explosives to dispose of whale carcasses.

Have you ever tried to cut tires of the car that blocked your driveway? Did it help to clear the blockage faster or exactly the opposite?

They would still be cleaning up the debris to unblock the canal, shipping would still be blocked.

because unlike videogames, object in real life don't despawn after you punch/shoot them.

if you destroy the ship, it sinks. And since its blocking shallow canal, you just made problem 10x worse.

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