London - The Suez Canal stepped up efforts on Friday to free a stuck mega vessel, after an earlier attempt failed to end a blockage that has lifted shipping rates for fuel tankers and scrambled global supply chains for everything from grains to baby clothes. In Washington, the White House said the Biden administration was seeing the impact of the incident on energy markets and would respond to the situation if required. Shipping rates for oil product tankers have nearly doubled after the 400-metre (430-yard) long Ever Given ran aground in the vital trade waterway on Tuesday due to strong wind. Efforts to free it may take weeks and be complicated by unstable weather, threatening costly delays for companies already dealing with COVID-19 restrictions. All its 25 crew members, who have remained on board, were safe, in good health and spirits, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), the Ever Given's technical manager said.
The Dutch rescue team had confirmed two additional tugs would arrive on March 28 to help dislodge the ship after an attempt to re-float it on Friday failed, BSM said. „There have been no reports of pollution or cargo damage and initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding,“ a BSM statement said. The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said efforts to free the ship by tug had resumed following the completion of dredging operations at its bow to remove 20,000 cubic metres of sand. „The tugging operations require the availability of a number of supporting factors including wind direction and tides, which makes it a complex technical process,“ the authority said. The SCA welcomed a U.S. offer to help. Turkey also said it can send a vessel to the canal, amid a push by Ankara to repair ties with Egypt after years of animosity. The suspension of traffic along the channel linking Europe and Asia has deepened problems for shipping lines already facing coronavirus-related disruption in supplying retail goods to consumers. The blockage could cost global trade $6 billion to $10 billion a week, a study by German insurer Allianz showed on Friday. Ratings agency Moody's expects Europe's manufacturing and car parts suppliers to be most affected because they operate „just-in-time“ supply chains, and said port congestion and further delays to the supply chain were „inevitable.“
IMPACT ON OIL
However, the delays come at a time of low seasonal demand for crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG), which will likely mitigate the impact on prices, analysts said. Data intelligence firm Kpler said 10 crude oil tankers were awaiting entry to the canal. About 4 million barrels of mostly Kazakh CPC Blend and some Russian Urals were waiting along with tankers carrying Libyan, Azeri and some North Sea crude oil for Asian refiners, traders said. Egypt's SUMED pipeline operator approached crude traders to see whether they wanted to book space in the system but so far traders prefer to wait to avoid high additional costs. Analysts expect a greater price impact on smaller tankers carrying oil products, like naphtha and fuel oil, for export from Europe to Asia, if the canal remains shut for weeks. Re-routing ships around the Cape of Good Hope could add about two weeks and extra fuel costs to the voyage, said Sri Paravaikkarasu, director for Asia oil at FGE. The blockage is weighing on the already weak Asian gasoil, or diesel, market. More than 60% of Asian exports to the west flowed via the choked Canal in 2020, according to FGE. Aframax and Suezmax rates in the Mediterranean have also reacted first as the market starts to price in fewer vessels being available in the region," shipbroker Braemar ACM Shipbroking said. At least four Long-Range 2 tankers that might have been headed towards Suez from the Atlantic basin are now likely to be evaluating a passage around the Cape of Good Hope, Braemar ACM said.
Each LR-2 tanker can carry around 75,000 tonnes of oil. The cost of shipping clean products, such as gasoline and diesel, from the Russian port of Tuapse on the Black Sea to southern France jumped 73% over the last three days to $2.58 a barrel on March 25, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.