Exporters of recyclable materials and shipping lines have welcomed the refloating of the Ever Given container ship which has been blocking the Suez Canal.
Admiral Osama Rabie, chairman and managing director of the Suez Canal Authority, speaking yesterday announced that as of “Monday 29th March, 2021, the Panamanian container ship has been successfully refloated. This was the result of successful push and tow manoeuvres which led to the restoration of 80% of the vessel’s direction; with the stern 102 metres away from the bank of the Canal now instead of four metres prior to the refloating.”
Metals and paper
Ongoing disruption could have caused problems for the exporters of recovered (waste) paper and metals, particularly non-ferrous, and their receiving mills and metal works largely in South East Asia and India. The mills and metal works were also facing delayed supplies from the United States, as East Coast shipping to South East Asia also uses the Suez Canal.
Shipping expert, Paula Hill of Winfibre, has explained that around six ships a week traversing the Suez Canal have cargoes which include recovered paper from the UK.
Shipping lines reacted positively to the news of the reopening. Maersk commented yesterday ahead of the reopening: “Having received the good news that the Ever Given vessel had been re-floated and on its way to anchorage at the Great Bitter Lake, as well as expecting the canal to be opened for passage within the next 12-24 hours, we have decided to turn around two of our redirected vessel to continue their original route via the Suez Canal.”
Hapag Lloyd said it had nine vessels waiting and there would be no more rerouting around the Cape of Good Hope (south of Cape Town).
Simon Ellin, chief executive of the Recycling Association, said: “We’re pleased that the Suez Canal has reopened and it will come as a relief to ours and other sectors because of the importance of export markets for recovered paper and others including metals.”
However, Dr Ellin said that he expected there would be disruption in the short term to exports because there would be extra demand on unloading equipment at the ports and that ships were running late to their destinations.
“Shipping cost are high enough anyway and this disruption could add to those. One relief is that there is good demand for recovered paper from the European Continent, although the need for Covid tests for driver is another potential disruption in the transport supply chain.”
Pankaj Chowdhary, managing director of Ekman Recycling UK, said: “I think it’s a big crisis averted but I do expect there will be disturbance for at least two or three weeks, if not more. It is not just about the canal being open, there will be a flood of ships arriving, congestion at the ports, and material supplies arriving to paper mills will get disrupted.”
In terms of UK recovered paper collections, Mr Chowdhary said: “Containers are there if you are willing to pay the price but getting the haulage to the ports is the biggest problem.” However, agreeing with Dr Ellin’s concerns about the impact of the Covid tests requirements on drivers coming to the UK, he said: “Getting the drivers tested will also be a problem which has the potential to disrupt the haulage of materials.”
One waste paper business in England told letsrecycle.com that they were: “Very concerned that the shipping lines would just shove prices up because of the disruption caused by the Suez Canal problem. They need little excuse and we have already seen some really high prices in recent months, above 1,700 dollars even.”