Operations Return to Normal at Suez Terminal Though Unrest Persists

Operations Return to Normal at Suez Terminal Though Unrest Persists

The Suez Canal Container Terminal is operating normally today following 10 days of civil disobedience in the Egyptian coastal city of Port Said that forced 25 container vessels to skip scheduled calls at the major Mediterranean transshipment hub.

The terminal, which is located at the northern tip of the Suez Canal, lost 30,000 container moves as the cargoes were diverted to other ports, according to a spokesman for APM Terminals, majority owner and operator of SCCT.

Large crowds have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest death sentences handed down last month against 21 people for their role in a soccer riot in Port Said in February 2012 that left 74 spectators dead and more than 1,000 injured.

The protestors erected road blocks, preventing SCCT’s employees from getting to work last week, which caused operations to slow and completely stop for periods, the APM spokesman said.

The roadblocks were dismantled on Monday, and SCCT operations returned to normal the following day.

“The protests continue, albeit at a lower scale,” the APM official said.

Maersk Line and Cosco, among the terminal’s biggest customers, are reported to have diverted containers to the Israeli port of Eliat. Maersk is also using Piraeus and Malta as alternative transshipment hubs for the eastern Mediterranean.

The financial impact on SCCT was limited, as almost 90 percent of its volume is transshipment traffic and only 10 percent is destined for the Egyptian domestic market.

The recent disruption also is much less severe than during the Egyptian revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 when SCCT temporarily closed with the loss of more than 350,000 20-foot-equivalent units of traffic.

But further protests are feared when a Cairo court is due to announce verdicts for others accused of involvement in the soccer riots on March 9.

The protests have not had an impact on the operations of the Suez Canal, which is being patroled by the Egyptian army. The government announced that revenues for the six months to December 31 increased 3.6 percent from the year earlier period to $2.6 billion.