Smooth sailing – Hydrogen’s clear potential to decarbonise shipping and maritime

The blocking of the Suez Canal in March 2021 underlined the sheer magnitude of the shipping sector, both as a prominent example of a cargo ship and its cargo itself but also in terms of the logistics of one seemingly simple logistics route being blocked.

The Suez Canal was blocked for just six days, from March 23-29, when a combination of technical and human error and the gusting winds wedged the 400 metre-long Ever Given container ship across the waterway. With its bow and stern stuck firmly in the canal banks at a juncture south of the passage’s two channels, no other ships were able to pass and one of the world’s busiest and most famous trade routes was instantly blocked.

Though the obstruction lasted only six days and soon fell from the headlines almost as quickly as it had dominated them, a bottleneck of more than 360 ships waiting to pass through the canal were recorded on March 28 – just 24 hours prior to the Ever Given being refloated and freed. The incident created a significant impact on trade between Europe, Asia and the Middle East, preventing an estimated $9.6bn worth of trade per day1 as well as the knock-on effects of pricing of goods and risks of piracy via alternative routes.

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