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Suez Canal must improve rapidly to avoid future disruption: shipping sources

By Jonathan Saul and Patrick Werr

CAIRO, Apr 1 (Reuters) – Egypt’s Suez Canal must move quickly to upgrade its technical infrastructure if it is to avoid future disruptions to shipping, shipping industry sources said, as the major trade route tries to recover from a costly closure. six days.

International supply chains were thrown into chaos on March 23, when the 400-meter-long container ship Ever Given ran aground in the canal and it took specialized rescue teams almost a week to free it after extensive dredging and repeated hauling operations. trailer.

Egypt will receive two new tugs, one next week and one in August, said the president of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), Osama Rabie, following the release of the ship, while also taking over the largest dredge in the East. Medium and is in talks to get five new Chinese tugs.

However, sources in the shipping industry said that specialized equipment and associated procedures have long struggled to keep up, while the size of commercial vessels is increasing.

“The average size of most ships has increased exponentially in the last 15 years. The ability to rescue these larger ships has not,” said Peter Townsend, a veteran of the marine insurance industry.

“The problem is getting the containers essentially out of a 20-story building into the sea,” he added.

Michael Kingston, an international shipping specialist and advisor to the United Nations International Maritime Organization, pointed out these problems in 2013, three years before the container ship MSC Fabiola ran aground, also blocking traffic for days.

“The obvious way to lighten a boat … is to take out the containers. They had no way to do it. There was no equipment available,” he said of the Ever Given incident.

(Reporting by Patrick Werr in Cairo and Jonathan Saul in London; additional reporting by Mahmoud Mourad in Cairo and Roslan Khasawneh in Singapore; edited in Spanish by Carlos Serrano)

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