Originally published: February 8, 2006
Reproduced courtesy of VizReport.
Suez Canal Blocked by
Red Isolated from Med
February 8, 2006 (Photo: Hegemann-Gruppe)
Update: (February 9, 2006) The ship has been dislodged and traffic is now moving along this critical waterway.
(VizReport) In line with our projections that the Suez Canal would soon be blocked as part of the current phase of disruption in the Middle East, we have received news that a Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessel is now lodged sideways in the canal, blocking traffic in both directions.
The 93,000 ton Okal King Dor, traveling north during a minor sandstorm and gusting winds, became jammed crosswise in the narrow strait about 10 kilometres south of the Egyptian city of Ismailiya, which means, perhaps significantly[?], “city of Ishmael”.
Four tugs were sent to the location in a bid to realign the ship.
The canal accommodates 8 percent of all world shipping trade, the majority of oil shipments from the Persian Gulf to Europe, and is a major source of Egyptian revenue, providing passage to almost 50 ships per day and generating annual revenues of more than $3 billion.
This ‘accident’ effectively cut off the Red Sea from all southbound traffic, including naval vessels scheduled to be routed to the Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean from current locations in the Mediterranean Sea.
The original target vessel for this suspected insurgent action was the decommissioned French aircraft carrier, the Clemenceau, but its transit was halted in the Mediterranean Sea via a legal challenge by the Greenpeace environmental organisation. The carrier was destined for the Indian ship-breaking yards at Aulang, but Greenpeace petitioned the Egyptian government to bar the passage of the giant vessel under concern that all toxic materials have not been removed from it.
The second major Red Sea incident in a week, the grounding of the Okal King Dor follows the terrible tragedy of the Al-Salaam Boccaccio 98 which sank (with the loss of approximately 1,000 lives) in the northern Red Sea after a fire broke out in its lower automotive deck. That incident has triggered protests against the government of Hosni Mubarak which was already under pressure by groups aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood organisation, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, fronted by Al-Qaeda number 2 man, Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri.