Updated The ship that spawned a thousand IT container jokes has been partially refloated [ah, yeah, see update below – ed.] after becoming wedged across Egypt's Suez Canal, blocking a crucial global trade artery.
Despite fears the route might be blocked for days – holding up as much as 10 per cent of the world's trade – the Gulf Agency Company (GAC) reported today the Ever Given container vessel was now alongside the bank of the canal [no, not quite, sadly – ed.] rather than its well-documented straddling of the waterway.
Efforts to shift the behemoth, which weighs the same as 22,988,822 adult badgers, had been hindered by wind conditions as Suez Canal tugs sought to remove its snout from the banks of the canal. The ship is 400 metres long, "the length of four football pitches," according to the BBC.
Reg Standards Bureau introduces the Devon fatberg as coastal town menaced by oily blobREAD MORE
We'd direct Auntie* to The Register's own standards converter, which puts the beast at just under 200 Osmans, 6.25 Devon fatbergs or 43.4 double-decker buses. A far better visualisation of the problem's scale.
Those 50 KPH (30 MPH) winds at the 151km mark along the canal also reportedly played a role in the blocking of the waterway by the vessel.
The Register spoke to a container ship veteran who has floated up and down the canal a few times himself, who suggested that, in the absence of a full report into the cause, another factor could well have been a "blackout" onboard the vessel.
"On a containership like this," he explained, "that's a loss of electrical power, leading to the main engine and generators stopping. They all shutdown because without electricity, none of the cooling, lubrication, or control systems have power."
"Ships," he added, "are not as redundant as many people would think. There's only one main engine, for example. There's only one control system, which has redundant features, but isn't wholly redundant."
Far be it from us to ponder if the same designers might have had a hand in the creation of the odd data centre or two, where a lack of redundancy could easily result in an IT container catastrophe.
Getting emergency power up and running, which allows the rudder to be moved, could take up to a minute. At least two generators would commonly be needed to start up the main engine. "This takes time," he explained. "Realistically, it could be as little as a two minutes, but it would often be longer."
During which time the wind might blow and the prow might, er, plough. Into the side of the canal.
"Blackouts," he said, "are relatively common on ships, with numerous causes. You generally run an extra generator in the Suez so that blackouts due to generator shutdown are less common."
As well as a reminder of the fragility of the global supply chain (already battered by the ongoing pandemic), the incident should give techies dispensing Kubernetes and Docker-based snark pause for thought: check your redundancies and backup plans.
Nobody wants a crash caused by a container cockup. ®
Updated to add at 2050 UTC
Cancel the celebrations: though the boat may have been partially refloated, it is still stuck across the canal, blocking the way and causing a traffic jam to grow. And yes, presumably you've all seen the NSFW path the vessel took before getting wedged.
*Auntie Beeb, an affectionate term for the UK's national broadcaster