Long Beach Port could receive additional cargo ships due to blockage at Egypt’s Suez Canal

A cargo ship stuck sideways in the Suez Canal shipping lane, one of the world’s busiest trade routes, in northern Africa, is causing a major traffic jam for shipping companies around the world, which could divert ships to Long Beach that were not accounted for.

The Ever Given, a Panama-flagged ship the size of the Empire State Building, ran aground Tuesday in the narrow, man-made canal dividing continental Africa from the Sinai Peninsula. As of Thursday, crews were still working to dislodge the ship using tug boats and bulldozers. The ship usually transports cargo between Asia and Europe and was on its way to the Port of Antwerp in Belgium before running aground.

The congestion at the canal is not immediately affecting shipping operations at the Port of Long Beach, Noel Hacegaba, deputy executive director with the Port, said, but as shipping companies continue to look for alternate routes, Long Beach could see a surge of ships docked offshore in the coming weeks.

“We will start feeling the impact of those changes in routing decisions over the next couple of weeks,” Hacegaba said.

Long Beach is one of the world’s largest shipping destinations for cargo moving between the western United States and Asia. This could present issues for a port that is dealing with a massive volume of cargo in the wake of the COVID-19 health crisis.

Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port, previously told the Post that the number of vessels at anchor steadily increased since October last year. Cordero said the demand for shipping is at an all-time high as people shop online as a result of the pandemic.

Experts and industry leaders are concerned the Suez Canal blockage will continue into next week. Hacegaba said the blockage is estimated to be disrupting over $9 billion worth of goods a day.

About 10% of the world’s trade travels through the Suez Canal, according to Fox Business, and roughly 185 vessels were still waiting to travel through the clogged waterway Thursday, Bloomberg reported. Most of the ships stuck at the canal are carrying livestock, oil among other commodities.

Long Beach port officials will continue to monitor the overseas traffic jam, Hacegaba said, but he added that disruptions, such as adverse weather, in the global shipping line happen all the time.

“Disruption, anywhere in the global supply chain, eventually affects the entire supply chain,” he said. “We are one system.”

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Sebastian Echeverry is the North Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of his grant-funded position with the Long Beach Post. If you want to support Sebastian's work, you can donate to his Report for America position at lbpost.com/support.
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