Suez Canal crisis: Why British businesses are becoming increasingly worried

British businesses are getting worried as Egypt's Suez Canal continues to be blocked by a Taiwanese mega-container ship for the fourth day in a row.

Maersk have issued a warning to their customers saying: "For every day that passes, more vessels will reach the blockage. To give you as much visibility into the situation as possible, please see the planned schedule Maersk and partner vessels for the next two weeks here."


The 400m-long (1,312ft) ship Ever Given, operated by Taiwanese transport company Evergreen Marine, is one of the world's largest container vessels.


There is a risk that some goods, such as perishable foods, could arrive too late to be sold.

It weighs 200,000 tonnes, with a maximum capacity of 20,000 containers.


The ship ran aground and became lodged sideways across the waterway on Tuesday after a gust of wind blew it off course.


It is blocking one of the world's busiest trade routes, causing a huge tailback of other ships trying to pass through the Suez Canal, which separates Africa from the Middle East and Asia.


There are more than 160 vessels waiting at either end of the canal, according to tracking data from Lloyd's List.

At the moment, Steve Parks, director of Seaport Freight Services says there is only one way to get goods through - go round the Horn of Africa, which will add another seven days to the journey.


"We've had supply problems from the Far East, we've had Covid, we've had the Brexit changes. You couldn't really make it up," he says.


"Things were just starting to get better. We were just starting to get over the shortage of containers, the shortage of vessels, and then this happens."


There is a risk that some goods, such as perishable foods, could arrive too late to be sold, due to ships either waiting to go through the canal, or having to be re-routed round the southern tip of Africa, warns Alex Veitch, general manager of policy at Logistics UK.


And while the current industry trend for extraordinarily large vessels means more goods can be transported in one go, the impact is much greater when things go wrong.


"When they turn up late or at the wrong time, it puts a lot of pressure on ports to offload them very quickly so that they can go off to the next stop," he says.


"That then puts pressure on domestic transport operations to get them to the shops in time, so it really does show how easy it can be to disrupt almost and invisible network of moving goods from source to the shop."


Source: Maersk and BBC News