However, any closure would not necessarily represent a hammer blow to the container trade, as vessel schedules could be immediately adjusted to minimise delays, with enough container ships to cope with the extra distance of sailing between Asia and Europe around the Cape of Good Hope.
Raising vessel speeds to 22 knots from the June average of 19k on Asia to Northern Europe routes, would mean transit times remain slightly longer, advises the analyst.
A 13,100 teu ship on the Asia to Europe route sailing at 19k and transiting the Suez Canal would, all being well, complete its journey in 25 days. Sailing around the Cape of Good Hope at that speed would add a week to that journey; while increasing the speed to 22k adds only three days.
That same calculation is repeated for 10,000 teu vessels.
Drewry acknowledges that Far East to Mediterranean lines would be harder to maintain, due to having to enter the Med through the strait of Gibraltar instead of Suez, but writes that: “assuming port rotations were adjusted accordingly, and some transhipment, services could still be maintained via the Cape with the same number of vessels.”
Sailing an extra 3,500 miles, however, would of course mean much higher fuel costs for shippers, especially when, as Drewry notes, fuel prices would surely rise if Suez was to close.