From Coffee Shortages To Gas Prices — 7 Ways The Suez Canal Ship Incident Will Affect You Personally

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suez canal

Naturally, you saw the news about a massive container ship jammed sideways in the Suez Canal (‘trouble in the Suez’, good one, Twitter). And it was objectively funny. Let’s face it, our collective sense of humor has devolved to waiting for someone to be hit in the crotch with a golf club despite the brilliant ray of light that is Ted Lasso.

But, the joke as always, is on us. Supply chains have been massively disrupted and we’re all in for some consumer ripples caused by the grounded boat.

What happened with the ship stuck in the Suez Canal?

From March 23rd to March 29th, the Ever Given, a 220,000 ton, 1,300-foot cargo ship, became wedged lengthwise within one section of the Suez Canal. As of now, the cause of the grounding is still under investigation.

For visual reference, the big boat is only about 100 feet shorter than the Empire State Building, including the spire. Registered in Panama to Evergreen Marine, the ship ran aground due to high winds spinning off from dust storms.

The Suez Canal is a 120-mile long artificial “river” connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. Its maximum depth is around 66 feet and a ship may have a beam (width) of a maximum 254 feet to safely pass. The canal features zero locks.

A lock functions as a self-contained portion of a canal which may be closed off while more water is added. Given the length of the ship and the lack of locks in the canal, you can likely guess what happened and how the fix was not simple.

Roughly 12 percent of the world’s shipping flows through the Suez Canal. Lloyd’s estimates that $400 million worth of goods pass through it per hour. The six-day occlusion likely delayed some $50 billion worth of goods. In the immortal words of Ashton Kutcher, "Now that’s what I call a Butterfly Effect!"

But how does the Suez Canal ship affect YOU?

While the ship was steaming from Malaysia to the Netherlands and your PS5 may not have been on one of its 18,000 containers, the hundreds of other ships — also transiting tens of thousands of containers — were either delayed or diverted. And we’re about to feel the backup.

1. Toilet paper shortages (again)

Yes, the first few weeks of the COVID pandemic slowdown in the spring of 2020 did result in your fellow Americans hoarding an insane amount of toilet paper. The TP cycle is a little hard to just turn off and on. While some of our paper does come from bamboo or recycled materials, it mostly comes from trees that take a long time to grow.

Per Yahoo, Suzana SA — a company that provides pulp for TP — is blaming the aforementioned shipping incident for backups which may lead to a serious increase in the price of that crucial paper gold. There’re always bidets or VERY frequent showers. 

2. Coffee may be hard to find

While I’m personally not a coffee drinker, I appreciate your pain. If the supply and price of Cherry Coke Zero ever goes against me, I’ll be reporting in tears from the bathtub for the rest of my days.

“But doesn’t our coffee come from Juan Valdez in Colombia?!” Nope. Per Fox Business, the importer and supplier Trabocca receives beans worldwide to stock your favorite shop or home packager.

3. Gas prices may rise

I suppose it’s a good thing that we’re not going anywhere thanks to this pesky pandemic because fuel prices may also be affected. Per CNBC, crude oil — of which some 4-5% passes through the Canal — saw a 4% bump in cost as a result of fears of further issues.

“Don’t we get most of our oil from the western hemisphere?!” Yes, astute of you to know that most of the petroleum used in the United States comes from either ourselves or our neighbors. However, as it’s a fungible product the price in the global exchange may still show up at your pump.

4. Furniture shipping delays

“Whoa. My furniture comes from Ikea. Which is near the Paramus Mall, guy.” But Ikea is a Swedish company. The meatballs up front should have been a dead giveaway. The supplies that eventually become that sweet, if bothersome-to-build lingerie cabinet do have to make it to Europe. The good news is that the Nordic furniture giant says delays should be “minor” per Entrepreneur.com.

However, if you’ve been looking for a couch lately, you probably have noticed MASSIVE delays in what West Elm (et al) are ready to ship. This was due to the foam factories and their suppliers in Texas and Louisiana suffering enormous damage during the ice storms this winter. More from my favorite website Furniture Today on that.

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5. Caterpillar supplies re-routed

“OK, now you’re messing with me. They come from larvae and turn into pupa and then a butterfly (or its cousin with a good sense of humor, the moth).” YES. But Caterpillar is also the U.S.’s largest machinery manufacturer, and per Bloomberg they are facing delays.

While you may not be building a home or digging a competitive canal to compete with the troublesome Suez, delays in new equipment in Europe may cause gear meant for projects stateside to be sent overseas. And just when they were almost done with I-75.

6. Walmart may not have everything you need

“OK, stop it. My local Walmart is RIGHT THERE, not in some dusty-butt waterway in Egypt!” And it will continue to be. They are masters of supply chain. According to TalkBusiness.net, they foresee little to no delays due to their supplier diversity. However, your mom and pop store may get pinched as a result of not having the aforementioned coffee, TP or construction machines.

And as many family-owned businesses are working check to check, your local corner store — who miraculously survived Amazon and COVID — may falter as a result of this if they can’t pass on extra costs to you.

7. What about that dang PlayStation 5?

While I can’t prove that the Ever Given had a PlayStation 5 that was destined for my living room, I can’t disprove it either. And, observationally, I’ve seen more hucksters attempting to mark up their PS5 prices than any time since Christmas.

But Auto News states that a microchip plant fire in Japan will likely delay automobile production anywhere from several for at least a month. And while it’s not exactly a supplier for Sony or caused by a zaddy of a barge jammed in a manmade waterway, everything is connected and the world is out to get me.

Tom Miller is a writer, actor and YourTango's accounts payable guy living in Los Angeles. He mostly writes about pop culture, weird news and stuff that grinds his gears. He loves college sports, movies with lasers and his Brussels Griffon Watson.