‘Ever Given’ incident and rumours on Suez Canal alternative
The giant ship named "Ever Given" got stuck in the sand on March 23 on the banks of the Suez Canal. Egypt may not have immediately realized how serious the consequences of the "Ever Given" ship, which was loaded with about 20,000 containers. But for the next six days, after continuous 24 hours a day work, the Japanese-owned ship was rescued and the crucial waterway of world trade was reopened.
The Suez Canal is one of the busiest routes in the world. After the closure of shipping through the Suez Canal, it began to have a serious impact on world trade. This is because the 120-mile-long canal, which connects the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, is the route of 12 per cent of world trade. This canal is a lifeline for European trade, especially with Asia and the Middle East. About 1 million tons of fuel and the world's total liquefied fuel gas pass through this canal every day.
Statistics released on the Lloyd's List show that hundreds of cargo ships were stuck, shutting down an average of 9.6 billion Dollar in business every day. That means 330 million tons of goods was stuck per hour. The German insurance company Allianz calculated that the closure of the Suez Canal caused a loss of 6 billion to 10 billion dollar in world trade in one week. As a result, world trade growth could slow to 0.2 to 0.4 per cent.
About two per cent of Egypt's GDP comes from tariffs on the Suez Canal. However, it is not yet clear why this rare disaster occurred. There is talk of strong winds as a possible cause. It is also said that there is a sudden power outage on the ship. Suez Canal authorities have warned that failure to cooperate in the investigation could lead to criminal charges against the ship's crew.
But something other than this loss of money may now be a major headache for Egypt. And that is, after the accident, a new alternative to the Suez Canal began to talk about the context of a canal. A 1973 secret government document was published in the United States by Business Insider, which described plans to build a canal through Israel as an alternative to the Suez Canal. That secret US plan called for 520 atomic bombs to be detonated in the Negev Desert in Israel to dig a 160-mile-long canal.
The Business Insider report has been widely publicized, especially in the Israeli media. Analysis-commentary has started in the Israeli media about the possibility of building such a canal. It has the support of the West, including the United States. In 1956, Israel fought against Egypt with the support of the UK and France to take control of Suez. Israel has never shied away from its desire to take control of this economically and geo-politically important waterway.
After the Arab Spring, new uncertainties arose between the United States and Israel over the future of Egypt's allegiance. As an alternative to the canal, the Israeli government approved a railway project in 2012 from the port of Eilat in the Red Sea to the port of Haifa in the Mediterranean.
Their plan was: ships from Asia would unload their goods at Eilat, and then the goods would be taken by train to Haifa and taken to Europe-bound ships. But the plan was thwarted by doubts about whether the ship traders would agree to the hassle of unloading goods twice. The Guardian, a London-based daily, quoted a British source as saying. In the wake of the Suez Canal accident, the possibility of building a new canal along the Israeli-Egyptian border has resumed in the UN Trade-Routes Committee.
In 2016, there was a lot of talk about creating an alternative waterway to the Suez Canal. But considering the "war in Yemen" and "the sensitivity of Egypt", the United States suppressed the issue. Then, last year, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) normalized relations with Israel. Again there was talk of an alternative canal to the Suez Canal through Israel. The UAE also said it would invest in building the canal. As soon as the writing started in Egypt, it would be treasonous for the UAE to make this investment. Later the UAE gradually fell silent.
Israel's geopolitical ambitions are doing more than just economic considerations behind the canal that Israel wants as an alternative to the Suez. In the new plan, an alternative canal is to be dug along the Egypt-Israel border, not entirely through Israel. This is probably a compromise formula. In fact, the main goal is to reduce Egypt's monopoly on this important waterway.
But why would Egypt obey them? The economic importance of the Suez Canal to Egypt is not the only consideration. The Suez Canal is one of the weapons Egypt has to make an impact on regional issues. So the alternative canal is a disaster for Egypt. If a canal is built and monopoly control over this waterway is lost, Egypt will lose its trump card. Egypt's influence and importance in the Middle East will be greatly diminished.
The "Ever Given" shipwreck could change the course of world politics, including the Arab world. We have to wait to see the future of the passage between Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea .
The writer is pursuing LLB, University of Rajshahi