1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Hope for Suez ship as tide rises, but worries for sheep

March 28, 2021

Thousands of animals, most from Romania, have been caught up in the Suez Canal blockage. Authorities are optimistic that a high tide could help to refloat a freighter that has been wedged across the waterway for days.

Ships wait in a traffic jam at the entrance to the Suez Canal
Thousands of animals are stuck on ships impacted by the Suez Canal blockageImage: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/REUTERS

Suez Canal authorities were optimistic that Sunday's high tide would help refloat the Ever Given freighter as animal advocates raised concerns for sheep stuck on some 20 livestock ships in the logjam.

Authorities have been working to free the giant vessel since Tuesday, when it ran aground in the canal and blocked the crucial shipping route in both directions. 

Animals International announced that thousands of animals — mostly sheep on 13 vessels from Romania — were at risk of dying if the channel did not reopen in the "next 24 hours."

"We are sitting in front of a major tragedy," said Gabriel Paul of the nongovernmental group, forecasting that delayed livestock carriers, including vessels from Spain, could run out of water and fodder.

Sheep packed tightly together on a ship
Romanian sheep were rescued from a cargo ship that capsized in the Black Sea in 2020Image: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images

On Friday, Britain's Guardian newspaper cited the ship-tracking website Marine Traffic as identifying three livestock carriers "stuck at various points in the canal."

At both ends or headed for Suez were at least 20 such carriers, the Guardian reported. Animals International urged nations to call their respective livestock ships back.

On Thursday, Spain had given orders that no animal ships bound for Saudi Arabia and Jordan be loaded, the Guardian reported.

Romanian veterinary authorities said they had assurances from transport firms that their livestock ships had enough fodder and water "for the coming days."

Egypt's Agriculture Ministry was quoted by the state-run Al-Ahram website as reporting that veterinary teams had been sent to livestock stuck offshore.

A satellite picture shows the Ever Given container ship
Efforts are underway to dislodge the Ever Given freighter, which ran aground on TuesdayImage: Maxar Technologies/REUTERS

Dredging and tugging

Salvage teams alternated between dredging and tugging around the stranded Ever Given on Sunday, but sources said rocks under its bow complicated efforts.

Suez Canal Authority chairman Osama Rabie said Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi had ordered preparations to lighten the giant freighter, which has 18,300 containers on board.

Salvage experts, equipped with 12 tugs, were pinning hopes on a high tide to refloat the vessel, which is wedged diagonally and blocking the waterway to more than 300 ships waiting at both ends.

Shipping lines, however, had already decided to reroute other vessels around southern Africa's Cape of Good Hope, Lloyd's List editor Richard Meade said.

On Sunday, the French shipper CMS-CGM announced that two of its Asia-bound vessels were rerouted and it was considering air and rail alternatives for some clients.

Billions in losses — daily

Though Egypt has lost $12-14 million (€11-12 million) in charges each day, the German insurer Allianz put the daily cost in global trade disruption at $6-10 billion.

The Suez Canal blockage was "the straw that breaks the global trade's back," Allianz reported in a study published Friday, referring to supply chains.

"First, suppliers' delivery times have lengthened since the start of the year and are now longer in Europe than during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic," according to the insurer.

Reuters reported that shipping charges for oil tankers had nearly doubled as carriers decided to reroute, adding two weeks to journeys and extra costs for propulsion fuel.

About 15% of world shipping traffic normally transits the 193-kilometer (120-mile) Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean and Red seas, linking Asia and Europe.

ipj/nm (Reuters, AFP, dpa)