Ever Given: a big ship in a bind.

There’s been a mishap in the Suez Canal: the Ever Given, a massive container ship on its way to Rotterdam, has run aground and is blocking the entire waterway.

These enormous vehicles inspire me in my Nostromo imaginings, so I finally sat down and started pulling some things together. You’re invited along for the ride…

I’ve been watching this event for the past few days, via news outlets, MarineTraffic.com, and Will Van Dorp’s tugster blog, trying to wrap my head around the enormity of it all.

When things go wrong with big ships, it is usually very bad. In this instance, there seems to have been no loss of life, thank God. For the folks awaiting the contents of those containers stacked aboard the stricken vessel, the outlook is not so good.

A media statement released by Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (the ship’s technical manager) verifies that the Ever Given ran aground on March 23, 2021 in the Suez Canal.

The Ever Given is operated by the Taiwanese company Evergreen Marine, per the BBC. Photo from The Load Star, by fallenhearts17 https://www.instagram.com/p/CMxEKHanW62/

Photo from CNN.com
How’d you like to have this staring down at you? Photo from Reuters

Tugs have been called in ever since to help re-float the vessel, but she remains stuck as of this writing.

According to MarineTraffic.com, the Ever Given is a 219,000 gross-ton container ship, built in 2018. Her home port is Panama. They compare her length to the Empire State Building: she is 1,309 ft (400 m) long and 193 ft (59m) wide.

Photo from MarineTraffic.com

That’s about 300 ft (91m) longer than the fictional Nostromo (1,095 ft/339m without refinery attached) and 600 ft (183m) narrower.Here’s how they compare:

Original Ever Given graphic from ShipmentLink; Nostromo by Steve South.
Original image from Insider.com. Nostromo by Steve South.

But all that aside, to get an understanding of what happened as this behemoth threaded the needle, watch this animation.

And this 3D simulation of the accident, from FleetMonCom (note: the color of the “water” in this video varies):

As things progress, I’m sure there will eventually be another detailed report about how this came to pass. Those always make interesting reading. In the meantime, let’s hope they’re able to get the ship back on its way so that part of the world can get back to normal.

Of course, the Nostromo is make-believe, but that doesn’t stop me from imagining what the world of galactic shipping would be like in the 22nd Century, where leviathan spacecraft transport even larger automated refineries on long hauls through the trackless void.

In Alien, we witness the hazardous landing and take-off sequences, and we see the hurricane generated by Nostromo’s lifters. This suggests that she and her sister ships may not routinely land down the gravity well, and if they do, it’s bound to be in spaceports far away from concentrations of humanity.

Of course, to see what would happen if an M-class spacecraft “ran aground”, just imagine this happening Earthside:

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