The Ever Given Grounding: A Preventable Curious Series of Events… or Not?

The Ever Given’s grounding was an unpredictable event … or was it? How could anyone plan for this Black Swan event? Impossible, right?

When you examine the details, you might come up with an unexpected answer. You’ll find even with this dicey event, supply chain risk management (SCRM) can make a difference.

Uncertainty and unpredictability define supply chain management today. They were always with us. But as supply chains became global, uncertainty and unpredictability have increased.

And now unpredictability and uncertainty are more likely to occur than not. They are unsurprising.

In this post we’ll examine whether SCRM can make a difference in cases like the Ever Given.

To answer that question, let’s look at the 5 Ws and H. (Who, what, when, where, why, and how.)


The facts and circumstances leading up to the grounding of the Ever Given

Without a doubt, the Ever Given was a mega supply chain disruption. On March 25, 2021, the Ever Given, owned by the Evergreen Line, ran aground in the Suez Canal.

With the cause still under investigation, no one knows the exact cause. Known factors at work were a sandstorm, high winds, and human error. Thus, it appears all three combined to cause the grounding.

In other words, without the blending of those three factors, the Ever Given might not have run aground.

Reports indicate the Ever Given exceeded the Suez Canal’s speed limit of between 7.6 knots and 8.6 knots. The Ever Given’s speed was almost double that at 13.5 knots. Some say this contributed to the grounding. But traveling at a higher rate of speed is also a way to help steady the megaship through high winds.

Let’s drill down a bit more.

Contributing to the grounding were two other indirect factors. They are the ship’s size and the highly stacked containers. These factors point to an increased risk of shipping cargo on mega vessels.

As such, together these two inherent risks require extra care and caution. Add the sandstorm, high-winds and human error, and you have the making of a disaster.

With these known facts, it appears, SCRM can make a difference.


How unpredictable was this disaster?

The grounding appears to be a one-off event. And it well may be. History, however, provides some useful insights that might suggest otherwise.

First, in researching blockages of the Suez Canal, we find two prior blockages of the Suez Canal. Both times war caused the blockage. On June 5, 1967, the Arab-Israeli War led to the shutdown of the canal. Then war shut down the canal again in 1973.

All in all, the blockage lasted 8 years to the day from June 5, 1967 – June 5, 1975. Mines, sunken ships, and war debris made the Suez Canal unpassable. You can imagine the economic impacts.

Second, sandstorms and high winds are seasonal. They are more common in spring than any other season. Here’s what one travel agency blog writes about springtime in Egypt.

Each spring, Egypt is hit by sandstorms, known as the khamsin, or the 50-day wind, that deposit a layer of fine sand on buildings and cars. Khamsin can be triggered by depressions that move eastwards along the southern parts of the Mediterranean or along the North African coast from February to June.

So, it’s clear, the Ever Given’s captain should have known about risks and hazards of traveling on the Suez Canal. This foreknowledge implies these inherent dangers warranted caution. More specifically, it suggests some type of risk mitigation was in order.

Third, piloting a megaship like the Ever Given warrants extra care and caution. The Ever Given is a monster of  a ship. It’s almost 400 meters long, placing it among the top 1% of the vessels operating today. That comes to 437.445 yards or a bit over four football fields.

Furthermore, it’s size is arguably unsafe. This ship has the capacity to stack containers higher than ever. In this case, the highly stacked containers acted as sails. They enabled the high winds to push the Ever Green into the canal crosswise.

Also, the size of this ship also makes it prone to capsizing, which we’re beginning to see more often. Shifting cargo and high-centers of gravity make megaships uncontrollable under adverse weather conditions.

Here’s a recent example in the North Sea. The Norwegian Coast Guard rescued the ship’s crew as the container ship risked capsizing.

Finally, we can never rule out human error. As we await the release of public information, we know little about the role of human error. The Suez Canal Authority, however, had two captains on board serving as guides to the ship’s captain. So, canal authorities took prudent, if not, major precautions.

That raises the question, again, whether this was the result of a chain of curious events.


A Not So Curious Chain of Events… 

The grounding of the Ever Given was a rare and unusual event. It resulted from a combination of uncontrollable and controllable factors. The cause is still under investigation. Again, initial conjecture suggests a sandstorm, high winds, and human error caused the grounding.

All three combined appear to have led to this disaster. Remove one element and the Ever Given might not have run aground.

Hindsight tells us better planning could have controlled this event. That means better control could have avoided or prevented this disaster.

So, it is reasonable to conclude SCRM can make a difference in similar events.

Uncertainty and unpredictability are rising, rather than declining. Thus, it makes sense to add another dimension to your supply chain. Think of it as adding a protective shield insulating your supply chain.

Arming your supply chain with defensive and offensive capabilities is not simple. But with the help of professional logisticians, you can build a responsive and resilient supply chain.

Is your supply chain ready to withstand the unexpected? Do you have an effective SCRM plan with defensive and offensive capabilities?

At American Global Logistics , we can help you prepare for unexpected disruptions. We can help you build a SCRM plan to resist and survive disruptive events.

Contact us today to find out how we can assist you in building a responsive and resilient supply chain.