- The Suez Canal was finally cleared Monday morning, nearly a week after a stuck ship forced it to shut down.
- The Japanese-owned ship, one of the largest in the world, was on its way to Felixstowe, U.K., when it hit the right bank of the canal and completely blocked it.
- Initial estimates indicated that it could take weeks to free the vessel, but a large team of ground crews and tugboats managed to complete the task sooner and pushed it into the middle of the canal facing the correct direction.
- According to data from Lloyd’s List, the canal’s closing has held up $9.6 billion worth of goods every day and forced some companies to reroute their ships around the southern tip of Africa, adding 3,500 miles and 12 days to their journey.
End of an Era
Internet users must bid farewell to their Suez Canal memes now that Egyptian crews have managed to free the massive vessel that has blocked one of the most important shipping passages in the world for about a week.
Crews successfully freed the Japanese-owned ship, named Ever Given, from the Suez Canal Monday morning. The Ever Given can accommodate 20,000 metal shipping containers and found itself perpendicular to the waterway after it hit the right bank of the Suez Canal on Tuesday.
Over the last week, estimates for how long it would take to dislodge the Ever Given varied wildly. The Suez Canal Authority initially thought the ship could be released in a matter of days, but later changed that estimate to weeks. That changed again after a team of tugboats and ground crews managed to move the Ever Given slightly and throughout Sunday night and by Monday morning they managed to push the ship into the middle of the channel.
The economic impact from the Ever Given is hard to understate. According to data from Lloyd’s List, a prominent shipping journal, roughly $9.6 billion worth of goods has been held up by the blockage each day. Satellite data shows that at least 150 ships are waiting on both sides of the canal, as well as the Great Bitter Lake in the middle of it, to get past the Ever Given. Some of those ships contain livestock, which has raised fears over their well-being during the delay, while others contain perishable goods.
Since it was unclear how long it would take the Ever Given to get unstuck, many companies rerouted their ships around the Cape of Good Hope. That route hasn’t been widely used by international shipping to go between Europe and Asia since the Suez Canal was built in the 1800’s.
Safety concerns have been posed for those ships because the alternate route forces ships to sail down the coast of Somalia and the Horn of Africa, which is a hotbed for piracy. Beyond that region being particularly dangerous, West African waters are also now considered among the most dangerous for shipping.
Additionally, it adds about 3,500 miles, 12 days to journeys between Europe and Asian ports, and hundreds of thousands in fuel costs.
Problems Likely to Continue
Unblocking the canal was only the first headache to tackle because all those ships waiting to pass through the canal still need to do so and such a traffic jam is expected to take days or weeks. These ships would normally arrive a handful-at-a-time to their ports, especially those going to Europe. Now, they are likely to arrive all at the same time, leading to further delays waiting for anchorage and a place to unload their cargo.
The Ever Given and the company that owns it may suffer some embarrassment from the situation, which has received more attention than normal for such a shipping disaster.
In the end, Egypt will probably have to answer the most questions.
The country paid $8 billion to widen the canal in 2015 in response to ships getting bigger and bigger. Those renovations only applied to certain sections of the canal and didn’t include the region where the Ever Given became stuck. That has prompted criticism from some shipping companies which argue that the canal needs to be widened across its entirety to prevent disasters like this. At the same time, there are concerns over the size of mega-container ships and the possible impacts they can have if they become involved in similar accidents.
See What Others Are Saying: (NBC News) (New York Times) (Wall Street Journal)
200 Children Seeking Asylum in the U.K. Are Missing
The missing include at least 13 children under the age of 16.
Children Missing From Hotels
There are 200 asylum-seeking children missing from government care in the United Kingdom according to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office.
When children are seeking asylum in the U.K. alone or separated from their parents, the government puts them up in hotel rooms for temporary accommodation. They have done so since 2021 and have temporarily accommodated 4,600 children in that time. However, Simon Murray, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office, said that 200 of the children placed in those hotels are missing, including at least 13 who are under the age of 16.
In response to this information, a collection of more than 100 charities sent a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the end of the procedure of placing kids in hotels over safety concerns. The letter says that these children are at risk of trafficking and exploitation by staying in these hotels alone.
Other officials have echoed these concerns, claiming these hotels are targets for organized crime where people use these vulnerable children for labor or trafficking.
Parliament Calls Incident “Horrific”
Murray told the House of Lords on Monday that despite the media reports, his department does not know of any kidnapping cases, though they are investigating. He went on to say there are many reasons why children go missing.
However, lawmakers were not appeased by Murray’s assurances. In a later debate, one member of Parliament called the missing cases “horrific” and another said that it was “putting children at risk.” The children’s commissioner for England also reportedly chimed in asking for, quote “assurances on the steps being taken to safeguard the children.”
Murray went on to say that the use of hotels for asylum-seeking children will hopefully be phased out as soon as possible but did not give a timeline.
The nonprofit Refugee Council called on the government in a tweet to spare no expense in the location of these missing kids.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Telegraph)
100,000 U.K. Nurses Launch Biggest Strike in NHS History
Opposition leader Keir Starmer called the strike “a badge of shame on this government.”
The NHS Grinds to a Halt
Some 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the United Kingdom’s largest nursing union, launched a historic 12-hour strike Thursday after the government refused to negotiate on higher pay.
The work stoppage, which spans England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is only the second in the RCN’s 106-year history and the largest the NHS has ever seen. It marks the breaking point for many underpaid nurses and the culmination of a years-long decline in the NHS’s quality of care, put under increasing stress by severe staffing shortages.
Although most NHS staff in England and Wales received a pay rise of around £1,400 this year, worth about 4% on average for nurses, they say it has not kept up with inflation as Britain plunges deeper into a cost-of-living crisis.
When inflation is accounted for, nurses’ pay dropped 1.2% every year from 2010 to 2017, according to the Health Foundation.
Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting for care has reached a record 7.2 million in England, or over one in eight residents, more than double what it was seven years ago.
In July, the cross-party Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee estimated the staffing shortfall could be as high as 50,000 nurses and 12,000 doctors, what one MP called the “greatest workforce crisis in history.”
Many nurses argue that boosting pay will help hospitals recruit more staff.
The RCN demanded a pay raise 5% above the retail rate of inflation, which amounts to a 19% increase, but both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the government’s health secretary have claimed that’s not affordable.
During Thursday’s strike, partial staffing continued to remain open for urgent care such as chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, and children’s accident and neonatal units.
Sunak and Starmer Brawl in Parliament
Labor leader Keir Starmer grilled Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the upcoming strike.
“Tomorrow will be the first-ever nationwide nurse’s strike,” he said. “All the Prime Minister has to do to stop that is to open the door and discuss pay with them. If he did, the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief. Why won’t he?”
“We have consistently spoken to all the unions involved in all the pay disputes that there are,” Sunak replied. “Last year, when everyone else in the public sector had a public sector pay freeze, the nurses received a three-percent pay rise.”
Starmer fired back: “Nurses going on strike is a badge of shame for this government. Instead of showing leadership, he’s playing games with people’s health.”
Sunak called Starmer’s demand that he reopen negotiations with the RCN “just simply a political formula for avoiding taking a position on this issue.”
“If he thinks the strikes are wrong, he should say so,” Sunak said. “If he thinks it’s right that pay demands of nineteen percent are met, then he should say so. What’s weak, Mr. Speaker, is he’s not strong enough to stand up to the union.”
While Starmer has called on Sunak to negotiate with the RCN, he has not explicitly backed the 19% pay raise himself.
Unless the government returns to the bargaining table, the RCN plans to launch a second round of strikes on Dec. 20 to be followed by ambulance strikes that Wednesday and the next.
If the government still refuses to budge, the union said in a statement that nurses will strike for longer periods in more places starting in January, disrupting more health services.
Other industries are also set to see work stoppages this month, including workers on railways, buses, highways, and borders, as well as teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers, and paramedics.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNN) (The Guardian)
Fortnite Developer Sued By Parents for Making the Game as “Addictive as Possible”
One child mentioned in the lawsuit played over 7,700 rounds of Fortnite in two years.
Epic Games Sued
A Quebec City judge recently approved a 2019 class-action lawsuit accusing Fortnite developer Epic Games of deliberately making Fortnite addictive.
The parents who brought forward the lawsuit claim their children have become so obsessed with the game that in some cases, they’ve stopped eating, showering, or socializing. The lawsuit claims that these kids have played thousands of games since Fortnite’s release in 2017. In one example, a teenager played over 7,700 games in less than two years.
If the lawsuit succeeds, players addicted to Fortnite living in Quebec since September 2017 could receive compensation. The plaintiff’s attorney, Philippe Caron, reports that over 200 parents outside the lawsuit have reached out to him, saying their child’s well-being has diminished since downloading Fortnite. He told The Washington Post that they are very confident about their case.
Epic Games Responds
“We plan to fight this in court,” Natalie Munoz, a spokesperson for Epic Games said to The Post, “We believe the evidence will show that this case is meritless.”
Munoz also said that Fortnite does allow parents to supervise their child’s playtime and require permission for purchases.
The parents involved in the lawsuit are claiming that they were not aware of the dangers playing Fortnite could pose for their children.
“If she had been informed by the defendants of the risks and dangers associated with the use of FORTNITE,” the lawsuit says of one guardian. “She would have categorically refused to allow the game to be downloaded.”