Syrian authorities say they have started rationing fuel as the blockade of the Suez Canal dragged on until the sixth day, delaying vital shipments and worsening the country’s oil shortage.
Syria has been embroiled in a civil war since 2011 and is facing a serious economic crisis. It had already announced a rise of more than 50% in the price of gasoline in mid-March.
Global supply chains have come to a standstill since Tuesday when the giant container ship Ever Given ran aground and was wedged diagonally through the canal, blocking the crucial waterway in both directions.
In contrast to earlier claims that wind gusts were behind the stranding, the head of the Suez Canal Authority, Osama Rabie, said on Saturday: “High winds and weather factors were not the main reasons for the stranding. of the ship, there may have been technical or human errors. . “
He hopes to refloat the ship in a few days, but the days of dredging, digging and pushing the tug have not been successful so far.
Rabie said the longer the skyscraper-sized Ever Given stays in place, the greater the chance that its cargo will need to be lightened with cranes, a strategy that experts have said will likely extend the rescue effort by weeks.
More than 300 vessels now navigate the water at both ends of the canal, which links the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
Syria’s Oil Ministry said on Saturday that the trade route blockade affected oil imports and slowed the arrival of a ship carrying fuel and petroleum products from the Iranian government ally.
Pending a resolution, “the ministry is rationing the distribution of available petroleum products” to ensure the continuity of essential services, such as bakeries and hospitals, according to the ministry statement.
Oil Minister Bassam Tomeh told state television that the cargo would arrive at the port of Banias on Friday. He added that if the blockage on the canal persisted, the ship could change its route around the southern tip of Africa, a costly detour that many companies have been forced to consider due to the blockade.
Before the Syrian war, the country enjoyed relative energy autonomy, but an estimated $ 91.5 billion in hydrocarbon revenue has been lost in the past decade, Syria’s Oil Minister said in February.
Pre-war production was 400,000 barrels per day, compared to just 24,000 in 2019.
Up to 80,000 barrels a day used to come from Kurdish areas outside of government control, where more than 90% of the country’s reserves are located.
The Syrian government has blamed the economic crisis on Western sanctions and the knock-on effect of the financial catastrophe in neighboring Lebanon, which has long acted as Syria’s economic lifeblood.
With Agence France-Presse