Mar 26, 2021

Suez Canal: Hopes grounded ship will be refloated by Sunday

Rhys Thomas
3 min
Threat to global supply chain worsens as Suez Canal blockage enters the fourth day - but mass excavation begins to prep vessel for Saturday evening attempt
Threat to global supply chain worsens as Suez Canal blockage enters the fourth day - but mass excavation begins to prep vessel for Saturday evening atte...

Shoei Kisen Kaisha, the Japanese owner of the container ship blocking the Suez Canal, says it aims to have the vessel refloated by Saturday evening, local time. 

If successful, plans to dig around the ship and move it during high tide will unblock the shipping lane after five days of disruption to global supply chains. 

Efforts to use tug boats to dislodge the Ever Given, a 400-metre long ship laden with goods travelling from China to the Netherlands, have proved unsuccessful. It ran aground and became lodged in both banks diagonally across the manmade strait on Tuesday, where it has remained since.

Instead authorities say they will now use mass dredging to remove 20,000 cubic metres of sand from around the ship, digging down to a depth of around 16 metres. This, they say, should allow the vessel to float freely and unclog the vital global trade artery. 

Impact on supply chain 

It is estimated that at least $9.5bn worth of goods have been delayed since the Ever Given ran aground on Tuesday. Reports suggest tankers and other freight vessels are now being diverted around the Cape of Good Hope - a journey that can add between 3000-5000 nautical miles depending on the destination - rather than wait for the situation to be resolved. 

Navigation of the vital shipping lane was suspended yesterday. Admiral Osama Rabie, Chairman and Managing Director of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) declared that no vessels would be permitted to pass through the canal “until the floatation works of the large Panamanian container vessel EVER GIVEN […] are complete”.

Analysts speculate that the container ship, which can carry 20,000 TEU, may be too firmly stuck for workers to shift without unloading at least some of its cargo. 

Maersk, which has at least nine container vessels and two partner vessels directly affected by the situation, says the ramifications of the blockage and its impact on global supply chains “depends on how long the route remains impassable”.

“We are closely following the refloating operations and will do our upmost to mitigate the delay as best as we can,” it added in a statement. 

Captain Rahul Khanna, Global Head of Marine Risk Consulting at Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, says the blockage could compound a shortage of semiconductors that is already slowing production in the car and consumer technology sectors. 

“Lloyd’s List has estimated that around $10bn of daily marine traffic could be halted by this blockage and it comes at a particularly bad time for global supply lines,” Khanna says. “Car and computer makers are straining from a global chip shortage, exacerbated by a fire in a big chip making factory in Japan.

“The canal is an important route to transport oil and liquefied natural gas from the Middle East to Europe and there is also the potential for delayed shipments to technology and automotive companies as well.” 

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Jul 22, 2021

Uber Freight to Acquire Transplace in $2.2bn Deal

2 min
Uber Freight’s acquisition of Transplace will supercharge parent Uber’s move into logistics and supply chain

Uber Freight is to acquire logistics technology and solutions provider Transplace in a deal worth $2.25bn. 

The company will pay up to $750m in common stock and the remainder in cash to TPG Capital, Transplace’s private equity owner, pending regulatory approval and closing conditions. 

“This is a significant step forward, not just for Uber Freight but for the entire logistics ecosystem,” said Lior Ron, Head of Uber Freight, and former founder of the Uber-owned trucking start-up Otto.

Uber’s Big Play for Supply Chain

Transplace is one of the world's largest managed transportation and logistics networks, with 62,000 unique users on its platform and $11bn in freight under management. It offers truck brokerage and other capacity solutions, end-to-end visibility on cross border shipments, and a suite of digital solutions and consultancy services. 

The purchase is the latest move by parent company Uber, which launched as a San Francisco cab-hailing app in 2011, to diversify its offering and create new revenue streams in all transport segments.

Transplace said the takeover comes amid a period of “accelerated transformation in logistics”, where globalisation, shipping and transport disruption, and widespread volatility are colliding. 

Uber Freight plans to integrate the Transplace network into its own platform, which connects shippers and carriers in a dashboard that mirroring the intuitive experience found in its consumer vehicle booking and food ordering services. 

“This is an opportunity to bring together complementary best-in-class technology solutions and operational excellence from two premier companies to create an industry-first shipper-to-carrier platform that will transform shippers’ entire supply chains, delivering operational resilience and reducing costs at a time when it matters most,” said Ron. 

Frank McGuigan, CEO of Transplace, said the resulting merger will offer enhanced efficiency and transparency for shippers, and benefits of scale for carriers. “All in all, we expect to significantly reduce shipper and carrier empty miles to the benefit of highway and road infrastructures and the environment,” he added. 

History of Uber Freight

Uber Freight was established in 2017 and separated into its own business unit the following year. In 2019 the company had expanded across the entire continental US, established a headquarters in Chicago. Later that year it launched its first international division in Europe, initially from a regional foothold in the Nertherlands, and later moving into Germany. 

The logistics spinoff attracted a $500m investment from New York-based Greenbriar Equity Group in October 2020, and launched a new shipping platform for companies of all sizes in May, partly in response to a driver shortage in Canada.

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