Thai vessels may have to be rerouted and seek an extension of deadlines for shipments if efforts to salvage a large container ship blocking Egypt's Suez Canal take longer than expected, Deputy Prime Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said.
The 400-metre Ever Given container vessel has been stuck in one of the world's primary shipping canals since Tuesday, suspending traffic of containers taking goods, parts and equipment through the shortest sea link between Europe and Asia.
The blockage comes as shipments have already been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and a surge in demand for goods. Efforts are under way to free the vessel, although salvage experts warn the process may take weeks.
Roughly 30% of global container traffic flows through the canal annually. The severed trade route could affect about 10% to 15% of world container throughput while the blockage persists, analysts from Moody’s Investors Service said.
Mr Jurin, also the Commerce Minister, said he discussed the matter with Thai exporters, shipping lines and commercial affairs offices in foreign countries.
One solution may be for ships to take the longer route around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope, which will add days to their journey, pushing up fuel costs.
He said he has instructed the office of commercial affairs in Egypt to ask importers there to extend deadlines for shipments from Thai exporters.
A source at the Commerce Ministry said that Egypt is Thailand's top trading partner and export market in Northern Africa.
The blockage may affect shipments due for delivery this month, with goods including processed food, canned tuna and automobile parts. The blockage would also affect Thai shipments via the canal to Europe, the source added.
However, the problem should have little impact on Thai shipments to Egypt next month because Egyptian importers have delayed orders for Thai goods pending implementation of the Egyptian government's Advance Cargo Information system to be launched next month.