Suez Canal: How one woman was wrongly blamed for Ever Given ship blockage

Suez Canal: Live map data after reports of another blockage

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BBC Two will air a documentary tonight on ‘This World’ following the Suez Canal blockage in March 2021. When the Ever Given got stuck, it triggered a global crisis. Using never-before-seen footage, testimony from witnesses speaking for the very first time, and expert analysis, the ‘This World’ investigation aims to uncover the inside story of the Ever Given accident And with more than 2,500 shipping incidents a year, this film also asks if this was just a freak accident, or whether it reveals a serious weakness in the world’s critical supply chain.

One person who was unexpectedly pushed into the spotlight during the crisis was Marwa Elselehdar, Egypt’s first ever female ship captain.

At the time of the Suez blockage, she was working as a first mate, in command of the Aida IV, hundreds of miles away in Alexandria.

But this didn’t stop fake news proponents from blaming the Suez Canal situation on her.

Ms Elselehdar said she was “shocked” as her image began to be shared by more and more people online.

Speaking to the BBC in April 2021, she said: “I felt that I might be targeted maybe because I’m a successful female in this field or because I’m Egyptian, but I’m not sure.

“This fake article was in English so it spread in other countries. I tried so hard to negate what was in the article because it was affecting my reputation and all the efforts I exerted to be where I am now.

“The comments on the article were very negative and harsh but there were so many other supportive comments from ordinary people and people I work with.

“I decided to focus on all the support and love I’m getting, and my anger turned to gratefulness.

“Also, it is worth mentioning that I became even more famous than before.”

Ms Elselehdar was familiar with this kind of treatment, however, as she opened up on the sexism she faced on her way to becoming a captain.

While she always dreamed of working at sea, her hopes of achieving the goal were dented because the Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport, Smart Village Campus only accepted men at the time.

However, she applied anyway and was granted permission to join after a legal review by Egypt’s then-President Hosni Mubarak.

But during her studies, Ms Elselehdar says she had to endure sexism.

She said: “Onboard, they were all older men with different mentalities, so it was difficult not to be able to find like-minded people to communicate with.

“It was challenging to go through this alone and be able to overcome it without affecting my mental health.

“People in our society still don’t accept the idea of girls working in the sea away from their families for a long time.

“But when you do what you love, it is not necessary for you to seek the approval of everyone.”

Fortunately, the Ever Given was only stuck for six days before being released.

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A Dutch specialist team, SMIT, oversaw a flotilla of 13 tugs ‒ small but powerful vessels that can shift large ships ‒ as they tried to dislodge the Ever Given.

Dredgers were brought in and dug 30,000 cubic metres of mud and sand from beneath the ends of the ship, eventually setting it free.

About 12 percent of global trade, around one million barrels of oil and roughly eight percent of liquefied natural gas pass through the Suez Canal each day.

This meant the estimated cost of the blockage was huge.

Data from Lloyd’s List showed the stranded ship was holding up an estimated $9.6billion (£7billion) of trade along the waterway each day.

That equated to $400million (£293million) and 3.3 million tonnes of cargo an hour, or $6.7million (£4.92million) a minute.

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