26 Mar. 2021. Britain could be facing another toilet paper shortage according to industry experts after a giant container ship became stuck in the Suez Canal.
The 400 meters long Ever Given, a Taiwanese registered ship, is currently blocking access through the canal. This comes on top of existing shipping container shortages sparked by increasing demand in China and a reduction in supply.
The Suez Canal, which allows ships to pass into the Indian Ocean without going around the whole of Africa, is one of the most important shipping lanes in the world.
Last March Britain was hit by significant toilet paper shortages due to coronavirus related panic buying.
Many supermarkets ran out and then began rationing toilet paper after more supplies came in.
Speaking to Bloomberg Walter Schalka, who runs wood pulp producing company Suzano SA, warned the renewed disruption could have an impact on supply.
Wood pulp is a critical ingredient in making toilet paper and according to Mr Schalka some shipments have already been delayed.
According to the Daily Mail Suzano SA, which operates out of Brazil, produces around a third of the planet’s hardwood pulp.
Egyptian authorities are using tugs and diggers to try and dislodge the Ever Green but thus far without success.
Experts have warned it could take weeks before the passage is successfully cleared.
This would force many ships to take a much longer trip around the southern tip of Africa.
Speaking to the Mail Joanna Konings, an ING economist, said: “With supply chains already under pressure, a large container ship has now literally blocked one of world trade's major routes.
“As the Suez Canal Authority works to free the canal, traffic is building up, and missing inputs will disrupt supply chains.”
Shipping costs had already increased significantly before the Suez Canal was blocked.
Simon MacAdam, a senior economist at Capital Economists, said they rose 250 percent between the end of January and last week.
Demand in China has increased rapidly as the country recovered swiftly from coronavirus and its companies are moving into markets its western competitors are currently less able to supply.
World production of shipping containers was also cut on the assumption the pandemic would reduce their demand.
After the Ever Given became stuck oil prices rose 6 percent on Wednesday though they have since fallen somewhat.
Around 12 percent of the world’s trade passes through the Suez Canal each year.
In a statement Shoei Kisen Kaisha, the Japanese company which owns Ever Given, apologised for the disruption.
They said: “In co-operation with local authorities and Bernhard Schulte Ship management, a vessel management company, we are trying to re-float [the Ever Given], but we are facing extreme difficulty.
“We sincerely apologise for causing a great deal of worry to ships in the Suez Canal and those planning to go through the canal.”
Peter Berdowski, CEO of dredging company Boskalis, discussed the situation whilst appearing on the Dutch TV station NPO.
Referring to Ever Given he said: “It is like an enormous beached whale. It's an enormous weight on the sand.
“We might have to work with a combination of reducing the weight by removing containers, oil and water from the ship, tug boats and dredging of sand.”
By James Bickerton
PUBLISHED: 05:35, Fri, Mar 26, 2021 | UPDATED: 08:51, Fri, Mar 26, 2021