A Ship Stuck in the Suez Canal Is Nothing to Laugh About for the Supply Chain

A Ship Stuck in the Suez Canal Is Nothing to Laugh About for the Supply Chain

By | March 30, 2021

Jokes about how the ship Ever Given got stuck in the Suez Canal in Egypt have been running rampant; that’s a given.

Steven Colbert, for one, weighed in on his late-night talk show with a segment called, “Suez Nuez,” saying the ship was en route to deliver “late March Christmas trees” and they should have used the “stretchy canal instead.” He even poked fun at the viral image of one small bulldozer trying to dislodge the ginormous ship. (Watch the clip from about 5:20 to 8:20 in the video.) CNN also aired a segment where they asked children how they would tackle the problem of freeing the ship with one young girl saying she would use strong “tweezers” to do the job.

Of course, no one at the company that owns the ship is laughing—nor are any of the other ships that were stuck waiting for the Ever Given to be ever leaving the canal or the companies that are waiting to get their orders delivered. The enormous ship was sailing from China to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, when it got stuck sideways blocking most of the canal. Officials say strong winds caused the boat to turn stopping traffic like a bear family crossing a highway. The incident also kept boat traffic from getting through to the tune of $9.6 billion in maritime traffic each day it was stuck, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence. Yes, we said billion.

At the time of this writing, the ship was finally refloated, but only after bringing nautical traffic to a halt for six days. The news should be a welcome relief to the ships that have waited for the canal to open up rather than having to reroute, and especially for the ships carrying livestock that were in danger of running out of food and water for the animals.


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All of this, of course, is on the heels of a yearlong COVID-19 supply chain issue that, at times, has made getting parts and other pieces of equipment difficult. Conversely, because demand has changed, companies have also canceled orders, which has hurt suppliers.

Because of the change in consumer behavior caused by the pandemic, some typically easy-to-get parts like chips for cellphones and cars have been difficult to find. Bloomberg recently reported that the lead time to fill chip orders was at 15 weeks in February. According to data Reuters cited from Susquehanna Financial Group, it is the longest it has taken to fill chip orders since SFG started tracking in 2017. One Chinese automaker, Nio Inc., even had to suspend production of its electric vehicles because of the semiconductor chip shortage.

Unlike most business disruptions, the pandemic has affected both supply and demand, which is something we haven’t seen on a large scale since the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009. Biz2credit.com lists three strategies companies can use to help, including:

  • Contacting suppliers to determine the extent of disruptions.
  • Taking stock of current contracts and inventory.
  • Collaborating with customers, local communities and even competitors.

Without a doubt, unplanned downtime is costly, and trying to troubleshoot problems as they happen can be not only frustrating but also time-consuming. Having the right parts in place and the information to help manage the whole Maintenance, Repair & Operations (MRO) process ahead of time is vital to ensure companies can seamlessly get the right parts to the right people at the right time. Instead of calling around for the part you need, what if you could check other divisions in your own company to see if they have what you need? With the proper software in place, companies can do just that. They can also learn what areas of their plants and operations are most likely to need parts imminently so they can order ahead of time—before a disruption occurs.


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In a May 2020 report on the supply chain, McKinsey & Co. wrote that plants need to be able to estimate available inventory, including spare parts, and use aftermarket parts as needed to maintain production levels. Additionally, the report says companies should be able to identify alternate sources for parts if needed.

As for canal jokes, hopefully that ship has sailed now that the ship is back on the move. Still, there will be future interruptions that no one can predict. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it before they happen.


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