• Fri. Jan 14th, 2022

Inchcape on Navigating Suez Canal Challenges

ByJanice K. Merrill

Nov 24, 2021

Members of the Inchcape Shipping Services Egypt team in Port Said serving on the Suez Canal Photo: Inchcape Shipping Services

Posted on November 24, 2021 at 12:42 PM by

The maritime executive

[By: Inchcape Shipping Services Egypt]

A passage through the Suez Canal is by no means a simple navigation.

It requires a series of complex bureaucratic approvals, swift logistics, a tight schedule, and close oversight to ensure the smooth transit of 50-70 ships per day along the narrow Egyptian waterway which is a vital artery for the flow. of world trade.

“Nothing can be left to chance and there is no room for delays as it can prove costly for the shipowner,” said Aziz Nabil, operations manager of Inchcape Shipping Services Egypt.

About 12% of international trade passes through the 193 kilometer canal that connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, making it the shortest sea route between Asia and Europe.

The risks of negotiating the man-made route were highlighted with the dramatic grounding of the giant container ship Ever Given in March of this year which blocked the Suez Canal for a week – delaying some 369 ships carrying around 9.6 billion. in trade dollars – before the ship was finally refloated.

The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) then filed a claim for $ 916 million for lost revenue and rescue costs due to the incident, attributed to a navigation failure caused by reduced visibility. strong winds and a sandstorm, and the ship was standing still for three months. until the financial dispute with the shipowner is resolved.

Transit monitoring

Nabil points out that while Inchcape did not act as a transit agency for Ever Given, it was one of the first agencies to report the incident and the first to notify the world when the ship was released as he is under 24/7 surveillance. traffic on the Suez Canal.

While incidents on this scale are rare, he says blockages can occur due to issues such as engine failure as the canal is crossed by larger and larger ships and Inchcape is therefore monitoring progress closely. from a vessel via the VHF radio during the entire 12 hour passage.

“This means that in the event of an incident, we are able to respond instantly by alerting authorities even before the vessel’s captain notifies it so that the SCA can immediately mobilize assistance from the tugs to prevent escalation of the vessel. the incident, ”explains Nabil.

Inchcape’s strong working relationship with the SCA is a key asset in this regard, as it facilitates the authorization to effectively coordinate incident response and avoid a more serious blockage of the channel, he explains.

This direct line of communication is also important in handling the large volume of compliance documents required from multiple authorities when arranging transits for various vessels – including tankers, container ships, bulk carriers and cruise ships – managed by the team dedicated to Suez discounts and transit from Inchcape to Port Said and Suez. respectively at the northern and southern ends of the canal.

Paperwork challenge

“The port agency for the transit of the Suez Canal is not an easy task for the captain of the vessel. After the initial transit request, we are in communication with various government agencies and then submit an electronic transit request to the SCA to secure a time slot in the daily convoy of ships, ”explains Nabil.

“An Inchcape officer will then board the vessel at anchor to have the captain complete the required paperwork so that we can then obtain the necessary approvals for the transit to continue. There is a lot of paperwork to be done to make sure there is no delay in entering the canal.

While the Inchcape Boarding Officer usually disembarks before the ship enters the canal, it is also possible that they will remain on board during transit to enforce the SCA’s strict anti-corruption rules in the canal. part of a special service aimed at preventing corruption.

Inchcape Egypt, based in Cairo, has a team of 100 experts and professionals, including six boarding officers, which covers all 60 ports in the country and is licensed to provide a wide variety of port agency services for any type of ship.

Inchcape handles more than 120 ship transits per month through the Suez Canal, which also involves the logistical challenge of on-time delivery of spare parts, provisions, bunker fuel and other services before a vessel entering the channel, as well as coordinating crew changes as part of an end-to-end service.

‘Cost avoidance’

“Before a vessel enters the canal, we are in daily contact with the captain to obtain detailed information on the nature of the vessel’s cargo as well as operational and technical issues such as visibility from the deck, the condition of the radar equipment, the vessel’s draft, and the condition of the rudders and anchors, ”explains Nabil.

He explains that it is essential to report potential problems in advance to avoid a delay in the junction of the two convoys of about 30 ships that pass through the canal in both directions from 4 a.m. each day, because missing a time slot can result in a fine of up to $ 5,000. .

Likewise, knowing the vessel’s draft in advance means that it can be adjusted if necessary to avoid a cost of around $ 15,000 for a special tug escort required by the SCA if the draft exceeds 47 feet, while other tugs can cost up to $ 30,000.

Inchcape is also sailing for shipping lines in the chain of discounts offered on the Suez Canal in order to remain competitive with a longer alternative route via the Cape of Good Hope. This requires collecting the necessary documents from various agencies in the origin and destination ports so that SCA reimbursement requests can be processed quickly.

These cost savings will be even greater given that SCA expects early next year to increase transit tolls by 6% for around 20,000 ships that cross the canal each year.

“Cost avoidance is a major problem and this requires solid knowledge and expertise in the management of Suez Canal transits, which is clearly also a factor in preventing serious incidents that may affect the flow of world trade”, Nabil said.

The products and services described in this press release are not endorsed by The Maritime Executive.

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