Suez Canal crisis: Ever Given ship blockage explored in new BBC documentary Why Ships Crash - when is it on TV

BBC 2 documentary will look into Suez Canal crisis of 2021 and asks if this was just a freak accident or whether it reveals a serious weakness in the world’s critical supply chain

Ever Given hit the headlines in March 2021 when it blocked the Suez Canal for days on end.

The ship, part of the Evergreen fleet, was wedged between vital waterways, with queues of 320 boats waiting to pass through the trade artery.

Now, almost a year on from the incident, the BBC has made it the centre of a new documentary looking at how Ever Given crashed, eventually freed and who or what was to blame for the blockage.

When did the Ever Given get stuck?

The Ever Given is one of the largest cargo ships in the world at 400m long and 59m wide.

It had been travelling from China to Rotterdam in the Netherlands and was passing through the Suez Canal on its way north when it got lodged in the water sideways at around 7.40am (5.40 GMT) on Tuesday, March 23.

What happened to the ship?

Evergreen Marine Corp, a major Taiwan-based shipping company that operates the ship, said the Ever Given had been overcome by strong winds as it entered the Suez Canal from the Red Sea but none of its containers had sunk.

On Saturday, the head of the Suez Canal Authority told journalists that strong winds were "not the only cause" for the Ever Given running aground, appearing to push back against conflicting assessments offered by others.

Osama Rabei said an investigation was ongoing but did not rule out human or technical error.

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement maintains that their "initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding".

However, at least one initial report suggested a "blackout" struck the hulking vessel carrying some 20,000 containers at the time of the incident.

Where is the Suez Canal and how long is it?

The 120 mile long Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea – and crosses the Suez Isthmus in Egypt.

It is a human-made waterway, which was opened in 1869 and provides a crucial link for oil, natural gas and cargo being shipping from East to West.

Around 10 per cent of the world's trade flows through the waterway and it remains one of Egypt's top foreign currency earners, and incorporates three natural lakes.

Some 19,000 vessels passed through the canal last year, an average of 52 per day, according to official figures. About 10% of world trade flows through the canal.

Has it caused delays in shipping around the world?

Authorities had been unable to move the vessel, and traffic through the canal - valued at more than nine billion dollars (£6.53 billion) a day - was halted, further disrupting a global shipping network already strained by the coronavirus pandemic.

A prolonged closure could affect oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East. Already, Syria has begun rationing the distribution of fuel in the war-torn country amid concerns of delays of shipments arriving amid the blockage.

As of early Sunday, more than 320 ships were waiting to travel through the Suez, either to the Mediterranean or the Red Sea, according to Leth.

At least 10 of those vessels carried livestock, raising concerns about the animals. Mr Rabei told the Saudi-owned satellite news channel Al-Arabiya that authorities planned to offer provisions to help them.

When will Why Ships Crash air on BBC?

The BBC 2 documentary Why Ships Crash will air at 9pm on Tuesday 18 January 2022.

Using never-before seen footage, testimony from witnesses speaking for the very first time, and expert analysis, this hour long documentary aims to uncover the inside story of the Ever Given accident.

And with over 2,500 shipping incidents a year, the film also asks if this was just a freak accident or whether it reveals a serious weakness in the world’s critical supply chain.

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