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Home / Suez canal crisis: Namibia hopes to capitalise … as container vessels detour round southern Africa

Suez canal crisis: Namibia hopes to capitalise … as container vessels detour round southern Africa

2021-03-29  Eveline de Klerk

Suez canal crisis: Namibia hopes to capitalise … as container vessels detour round southern Africa
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WALVIS BAY - Namibia is on standby to provide transhipment services to countries affected by the unfolding Suez canal cargo ship blockage crisis. 

Namport says it is hoping to capitalise from the blockage that has brought 12% of the global trade to a standstill since 23 March. Hundreds of ships have been stranded and waiting in the queue in the Gulf of Suez to cross the Suez canal as the container ship MV Ever Given, longer than four football fields, remained wedged sideways about six kilometres north of the canal’s entrance impeding all flowing traffic.

As a result of the blockage, a number of container ships have chosen the alternative route, around the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa, which can take up to 12 days. Namport’s commercial services acting executive Elias Mwenyo yesterday told New Era they were closely monitoring the situation as frantic efforts are underway to refloat the cargo ship, which is loaded with 20 000 containers. “Currently, most of the carriers are diverting their vessels to go around the Cape route and Walvis Bay of course. 

 This will add at least one more week to their vessel’s schedule, supplies and fuel. We also foresee that they mostly could opt to tranship some of their cargo through our port,” Mwenyo said. He added that this possibility could mean ships will have to refuel and stock up on other supplies for alternative routes.

 He said Namport was instrumental in this regard owing to its low turnaround time. “We will obviously benefit if they wish to tranship from here. I should however emphasise that none of our clients are affected by this catastrophe. Our linkage with the global network does not require our trading partners to go through the Suez canal,” he said, adding the holdup in the canal has no negative impact on trade or cargo handling at the port. 

Namport’s expanded container terminal, which was inaugurated in 2019 by President Hage Geingob, has a capacity of at least 750 000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) per annum, compared to the previous capacity of 350 000 TEU. A total of 321 ships were waiting for the canal to be cleared as of Saturday, according to online media reports. 

The 193-km man-made canal connects the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, making it a vital passage for ships seeking to travel between Asia and Europe without having to circumnavigate Africa in the process. The world’s largest shipping company, Maersk, announced on its website at the weekend that it has rediverted 15 vessels toward the Cape of Good Hope. 

 “We have until now redirected 15 vessels where we deemed the delay of sailing around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa equal to the current delay of sailing to Suez and queuing. We do not expect to redirect any further ships during the weekend based on this analysis. New calculations on redirecting additional vessels will be made Monday (today) considering the weekend’s salvage attempts,” the company said.


2021-03-29  Eveline de Klerk

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