A giant container ship currently marooned in the Suez Canal could hit supplies of consumer goods and essential parts to the UK, a Merseyside maritime industry leader is warning.
And Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive of industry body Mersey Maritime, says the incident involving Ever Given, a huge vessel capable of carrying 20,000 containers, illustrates how critical the maritime sector is to our everyday lives.
Ever Given has run aground at the southern end of the Suez Canal, which separates Africa from the Middle East and Asia. Around 12% of global trade moves through the waterway and experts at Lloyds List estimate the huge tailback of ships waiting to pass through is holding up $(US)9.6bn of goods every day, that is $(US)400m an hour.
According to Lloyd’s List tracking data there are more than 160 vessels waiting at either end of the canal. These include 41 bulk carriers and 24 crude tankers. Along with oil, the sea traffic is largely consumer products such as clothing, furniture, manufacturing components and car parts.
There is an international round-the-clock effort to free the 200,000-tonne vessel but it is feared the operation could take weeks. There are now reports of shipping companies starting to divert their ships around the southern tip of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope, which adds about 3,500 miles to the journey and up to 12 days.
Mr Shirling-Rooke, who represents Liverpool city region’s powerhouse £4bn maritime sector, warns the knock-on effect could be significant. He said: “This serious incident illustrates how critical the maritime sector is to our lives.
“We are an island nation and 95% of the essential food, fuel, medicines, consumer goods and essential parts for manufacturers such as carmakers arrives through ports such as Liverpool. We are a hugely important part of the global trade network.
“The situation in the Suez clearly demonstrates that just because something is happening thousands of miles away, don’t think for a moment it won’t have an impact on our lives. The price of petrol for your car, your food in the supermarket or the new iPhone you’ve just ordered are all dependent on maritime.”
Maritime remains one of Liverpool city region’s most important industrial sectors, employing tens of thousands of people across more than 30 sub-sectors, from shipping, to digital, to financial services and maritime insurance. It is also at the forefront of technological innovation.
Mersey Maritime is leading the £23m Maritime Knowledge Hub project which will provide a national base for marine engineering research and development as well as skills training and business accelerator space in Wirral Waters. It will create 4,000 jobs in its first five years.
Mr Shirling-Rooke added: “Maritime isn’t as visible as other major sectors such as retail and tourism. It is why people don’t always realise how important a role it plays in our everyday lives. It is something we take for granted – until it suddenly stops working.”