Saturday, September 18, 2021

Suez Canal logjam leads to shortage of toilet paper, garden gnomes

Egyptian authorities have said they will not release the massive ship until its owners agree to pay up to US$1 billion in compensation.

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The massive container ship that jammed the Suez Canal last month not only led to a blocked vital trade artery and international supply chains thrown into disarray but has also resulted in another knock-on effect – a shortage of garden gnomes.

The skyscraper-sized 200,000-tonne MV Ever Given got diagonally stuck in the narrow but crucial waterway in a sandstorm on March 23, triggering a mammoth six-day-long effort to dislodge it.

According to a UK garden centres report, garden gnomes have become casualties of the disaster.

Surging lockdown demand for the ornamental dwarves is going unfulfilled, garden centres report.

Ian Byrne, of Highfield Garden World in Whitminster, Gloucestershire, told the BBC that there has been a huge rise in sales of gnomes, which have become a staple of many suburban gardens since they were first introduced in the 1840s.

Lockdown demand has outstripped supply, a problem now exacerbated by the clogged canal.

“We haven’t seen a gnome in six months now, unfortunately,” he said.

Iain Wylie, chief executive of the Garden Center Association, said, “Gardening has been very popular during lockdown. Garden centres were affected by the ship getting stuck in the canal as much as any other industry. Garden furniture and ornaments are delayed in containers trying to come over here.”

Supply chains across many industries were affected when the Ever Given became lodged in the canal and many still are feeling the pinch.

Walter Schalta, CEO of Suzano SA, one of the biggest producers of the pulp used to create toilet paper, told Bloomberg that the Suez Canal jam would likely delay wood-pulp shipments and thus the availability of toilet paper in stores.

The coffee industry has also been affected by the jam, according to Bloomberg. This disruption will most likely be felt in Europe but could be an issue worldwide.

“Can roasters support two to three weeks of delays? Probably not,” Raphaelle Hemmerlin, the head of logistics at the Swiss coffee trader Sucafina SA, said to Bloomberg. “I don’t think they have the buffer stock that they normally have.”

While the giant Ever Given might have been physically freed, it still finds itself stuck in hot water over a dispute as to who should pay for dislodging it from the waterway.

Egyptian authorities have said they will not release the massive ship until its owners agree to pay up to US$1 billion in compensation.

“The vessel will remain here until investigations are complete and compensation is paid,” Lt Gen Osama Rabie, who heads the Suez Canal Authority, told a local news station on Thursday, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“We hope for a speedy agreement,” he said, adding that the “minute they agree to compensation, the vessel will be allowed to move.”

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