The Suez Canal has probably made more headlines this year than any other since 1956, with the crisis this time not being about a military confrontation, but a ship almost nobody had heard of until March getting stuck.
Now, of course, everyone knows about the Ever Given, the seaborne behemoth that ran aground in and led to a week-long wait for traffic on the busiest international shipping route in the world to resume.
This might have led some to imagine that for the canal authorities, the event would have brought a big financial blow. But the reality is very different.
In fact, the worldwide freight industry has been making more use of the canal than ever, with the consequent receipts for the canal authorities rising by 11.6 per cent year-on-year over the period between January and August this year, from $3.66 billion to $4.09 billion (£3 billion).
This has occurred because, despite the infamous Ever Given blockage, the volume of ships using the canal rose significantly, up from 12,482 in the equivalent period of 2020 to 13,317 this year. The easing of the pandemic, especially in advanced economies with high vaccination rates, may be one of the prime reasons for this.
Overall, the Suez Canal accounts for 12 per cent of the world’s freight shipping. If the blockage in the summer was a major problem at the time, it served as a reminder of just how important this man-made shortcut around Africa is.
The canal authorities are planning to deepen and widen sections of the canal to reduce the chances of another Ever Given incident, and they have just had a reminder of why it is so important to do so.
Earlier this month, the Panama-registered Coral Crystal ran aground 33 miles into the canal, although thankfully this was in a double-lane section and shops could be diverted into the other lane, and tugboats were soon able to free the vessel.
With their extra income from a year of growing trade, the canal authorities will at least have little difficulty paying for this important expansion work to be carried out.