YB WEB DESK. Dated: 4/3/2021 12:41:55 PM

T K NANDANAN The man-made waterway, the Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes had to suspend traffic due to a giant container named MV Ever Given, a 400-metre-long vessel got stuck in the Canal. On March 23, a fierce sandstorm hit Egypt’s Sinai Desert through which the Suez Canal passes, and under its impact the giant vessel veered off course and ran aground. In fact, the vessel wedged diagonally across the canal causing complete suspension of traffic. It is estimated that as much as 12 per cent of global trade passes through this narrow canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. The mishap literally caused consternation to India as the entire ship crew is Indian. Fortunately, nothing happened to them as they are safe now. The Suez Canal is 193 km long, 250 metre wide and 25 metre deep. It has been doing yeoman service since its inception in 1869. The canal is owned and maintained by the Suez Canal Authority of Egypt. Under the Convention of Constantinople, it may be used ‘in time of war as in time of peace’ by every vessel of commerce or of war without distinction of flag. Egypt earned $ 5.61 billion in revenue from the Suez Canal in 2020. Considering the importance it gained over the years as the world’s major water way, it is high time the Canal authority undertook wider expansion work of the canal. As its width is only 250 metre, it can no longer offer perfect service to the shipping traffic as at present there are many larger ships or vessels than its width in service operation. So, the authorities concerned must widen the width from the present 250 meter to 500 meter so that the canal can accommodate the vessel in any direction if a sudden sandstorm hits the vessel. The widening of the canal can also help increase its depth. It is quite natural that sandstorm often hits this region and since the vessel involved in the mishap is comparatively very huge one, the sandstorm could exert much pressure on it and thus it got stuck in the narrow canal. So, the canal authorities should have taken precautions when they allowed this behemoth container ship’s journey inside the narrow canal. When the Ever Given, a ship longer than the Empire State Building, wedged itself between the banks of the Suez Canal, traffic came to a halt for a week, which caused billions of dollar loss to many international companies let alone many countries. It is true that this incident left behind disruptions and backlogs in global shipping. So, Suez Canal Authority must see that such avoidable occurrences of incident be not repeated by doing the best possible. It may be borne in mind that if the Suez Canal is blocked, ships and huge vessels from Indian Ocean have to navigate around Africa to reach Europe covering more than 10,000 nautical miles, whereas through Suez Canal Europe can be accessed halving the distance. So, the Suez Canal water way must be further upgraded, protected, taken care of and monitored.


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