Asian cargo faces logjams in Europe after Suez blockage

For Nikkei Asia

HAMBURG, Germany — Asian shippers are braced for massive congestion in Europe’s key cargo gateways following the reopening of the Suez Canal, adding to the delays that the coronavirus has already caused for trade between Asia and the West.

Hundreds of container ships were left waiting when the Ever Given ran aground and blocked the key trade route for six days.

Those bound for Europe are now set to arrive all at once this week, to be followed several days later by vessels that avoided the Suez logjam by sailing around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.

Approximately 80% of all goods imported by Europe reach the continent by ship, and most of them come in containers from Asia through the Suez. The 400-meter long Ever Given became stuck on March 23 on its way to Rotterdam from Malaysia’s Tanjung Pelapas. The ship was eventually freed by a flotilla of tugboats on March 29, allowing passage to resume.

The disruptions caused by the Ever Given hit the logistics sector at a time when more than half of global vessel traffic is running later than scheduled, owing to knock-on effects of manpower shortages caused by coronavirus lockdowns that began in early 2020.

„Logistics had been out of order even before the Ever Given logjam, and the looming container congestions in European ports will greatly complicate the bookings for export containers that head back to Asia,“ said Lothar Thoma, managing director air & sea at Gebrueder Weiss, an Austria-based logistics company that has 19 branches in China.


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