How the Suez Canal blockage could affect the UK

The release of a 400-meter-long container ship in the Suez Canal could take weeks.

The Ever Given hit the right bank of the waterway and was housed on Tuesday, preventing other ships from making the shortcut between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea since then.

But how could a blockade affect the UK more than 3,500 km away?

UK imports

The canal is one of the most important shipping routes in the world. According to trade experts, blocking it could make some goods made in Asia more difficult to import here.

This includes furniture, electronics and clothing made in China for UK shelves.

In the short term, the reduced competition could give European exporters an advantage in the UK market, giving them the opportunity to raise prices.

Banking giant ING’s chief economist Joanna Konings said, “Container freight brings most goods to most stores.

“So the whole range of things people see that are imported could be in those containers.

“All of this either goes straight through the Suez Canal or it is a product that competes with a product that crosses that Canal.”

UK exports

UK exports could also be impacted as global just-in-time supply chains are delayed.

For example, automakers often have to buy semiconductors at the last minute because of insufficient inventory.

While these are usually transported to the UK in the holds of passenger planes, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on air travel, companies have instead turned to ships to supply them.

The impact of the Suez incident on international shipping routes, which were already in high demand as companies around the world prepared for the “new normal” post-pandemic, could therefore damage the automotive, electronics and IT sectors.

Ms. Konings said, “Even the smallest input can sometimes bring conveyor belts to a standstill because you only need that crucial part. If it’s in a container, there is nothing you can do about it.”

Tom Fairbairn, engineer at the Solace management platform, added: “With the already tight semiconductor supply situation, including a water shortage in Taiwan and a plant fire in Japan, the automotive, electronics and IT industries could be particularly hard hit.”

Oil prices

Since the waterway carries around a tenth of all oil transported by sea, the blockade has already led to an increase in oil prices.

The price of Brent crude only rose 2 percent this morning as the timeframe for the Ever Given to be removed became clear.

The forecast

The real impact of the Suez Blockade – on the UK and the world – will depend on how long it lasts.

The initial hopes that excavators and tugs could quickly resolve the Ever Given vanished soon after they were housed on Tuesday.

Rescuers said yesterday that the operation could take “days to weeks”.

Ocean freight typically provides a few days of delay on the month-long trips, but more than a week is longer than normal.

Ships can reroute around the southern tip of Africa, but this could add weeks to a trip.

According to experts from Kpler, the 24-day journey through Suez from Ras Tanura, an oil port on the Persian Gulf, to Amsterdam will be extended to 39 days when rounding Africa.


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