The US has offered Egypt assistance in unblocking the Suez Canal, as the head of the world’s largest shipping company warned that businesses reliant on just in time supply chains will have to resort to flying in essential components. The warning from Soren Skou, chief executive of AP Moller-Maersk, adds to growing concern that the disruption to global trade will soon start having an impact on already stretched manufacturing industries from cars to plastics, after attempts to free the giant container ship EverGiven failed again on Friday.
“For goods urgently needed, then they will have to be reproduced and air freighted,” Skou told the Financial Times. “Ships that are there are going to have to wait there.” The White House said on Friday the US was in discussions with Egypt over how the US could “best support” efforts to reopen the canal.
Shipping companies have also raised fears that the billions of dollars worth of goods stuck waiting to transit the canal are vulnerable, with a number contacting the US Navy about the elevated threat of piracy. Skou said the blockage would trigger a series of further disruptions and backlogs in global shipping that could take months to unravel, even if the growing crisis over the canal could be resolved.
Ana Boata, head of macroeconomic research at trade credit insurer Euler Hermes, said the disruption had “the potential to cost the world economy up to $10bn in lost trade for each week that the Ever Given blocks the canal”. Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), the technical manager of the container ship, said the latest efforts to refloat the 400m-long vessel had failed.