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A sandstorm with high winds in Manshiyet Rugola, Egypt, caused a large container ship to run aground in the Suez Canal. Officials and work crews have struggled for the past 5 days to free the Ever Given; on March 27, 2021, 11 tugboats worked through the day alongside the dredging operations.
After making significant progress, the crews stopped working when the Suez Canal’s tide fell significantly. It appears the ship will remain stuck for the unforeseeable future. During a press conference, Suez Canal Authority Chairman Lt. General Osama Rabie said he could not speculate exactly when the vessel will be freed. “Maybe today, god willing. Maybe tomorrow.”
It depends on the situation, he continues. “When dealing with a ship of this size, its behavior with the dredgers is unknown. We don’t know how it will respond to the pulling.” Divers report there is no visible damage to the ship’s hull.
The rudder was freed from the Suez Canal’s sediment, and the ship’s stern began to move toward Port Suez — its bow remains stuck in the sand and mud. Rabie explained they believe the Ever Given could slide and move from its current position at any time.
Rabie added: “Strong winds and weather factors were not the main reasons for the ship’s grounding.” Authorities have not ruled out that technical or human error could be behind the vessel’s becoming lodged sideways in the Suez Canal.
The Panama-flagged ship, Ever Given, is operated by Evergreen Marine Corporation — it carries cargo between Asia and Europe. It is one of the world’s largest container carriers; the vessel is roughly the Empire State Building’s length, which is 1,454 feet at its tallest point.
Officials hope to free this enormous vessel from the Suez Canal without having to offload its cargo. Although, residents living in Manshiyet Rugola, the village next to where the ship is wedged, joked about finding out what is in the ship’s containers, reports The New York Times.
Lt. General Rabie says offloading the Ever Given’s cargo while she remains stuck in the Suez Canal. Doing so would involve a large number of specialized vessels and machines; and crew members into the hundreds. Small tankers would need to siphon off the ship’s fuel.
They will need the tallest cranes in the world to begin unloading the ship. If there are no cranes tall enough or in close proximity to the Suez Canal, the alternative is to use heavy-duty helicopters which can move up to 20 tons. Another concern is that a full 40-foot container can weigh as much as 40 tons.
As the maritime traffic jam grew, shipping companies that normally use the Suez Canal are forced to wait for the Ever Given to be moved or take the far longer route around the Cape of Good Hope to reach their destinations in Europe or the east coast of North America.
Ever Given’s sister ship, the Ever Greet, was one of the first ships to reroute from the Suez Canal to circle the cape — adding about 12 days to their normal trip and an estimated $26,000 each day in fuel costs.
Lloyd’s List, a shipping data and new company states approximately 10 percent of world trade travels through the Suez Canal. The canal is crucial for transporting oil and this closure could affect shipments of oil and gas to Europe from the Middle East. Although, analyst Toril Bosoni states the oil markets are absorbing the disruption; at least for now.
Current data indicates about 321 vessels are waiting near Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea and Port Suez on the Red Sea in the Suez Canal system on Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake.
However, Lloyd’s List believes 213 ships are now stalled at either end of the Suez Canal. They estimate $9.6 billion worth of cargo is delayed between Asia and Europe. A rough breakdown suggests the westbound traffic is worth about $5.1 billion daily and the eastbound is worth $4.5 billion.
Analysts report the shipping industry can absorb the disruption through Monday, March 29. If Ever Given is not dislodged by then, supply chains and consumers could begin to experience major distribution delays.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Business Insider: The Ever Given’s rudder has been freed from the sediment, but the ship’s still stuck in the Suez Canal; by Michelle Mark
Al Jazeera: No timeline given for freeing huge ship blocking Suez Canal
The New York Times: ‘A Very Big Problem.’ Giant Ship in the Suez Remains Stuck. By Vivian Yee
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Vyacheslav Argenberg’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of newsonline’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License