New operations are being prepared this Sunday to refloat the 300-metre wide sea-going behemoth stuck diagonally across the waterway.
Optimism prevailed on Sunday 28 March concerning the unblocking of the container ship stuck since Tuesday in the Suez Canal, in Egypt. A high tide expected in the evening could facilitate the task of the rescuers.
Despite attempts to refloat the 400-metre long megaship Ever-Given in recent days, it remains stuck in the canal. On Sunday, new operations were being prepared to refloat it, while each day of delay entails significant costs to the world’s shipping industry. Part of the hope is that a high tide expected in the evening will make it easier for technical salvage teams, equipped with powerful tugs and dredgers to suck up the sand from under the ship, whose bow is embedded in the shore.
The immobile vessel was surrounded on Sunday morning by a number of tugs, according to an Agence France-Presse journalist on the scene. Its tall silhouette, some 60 metres high, dominated the fields and palm trees planted on the western shore. The area was under heavy surveillance by canal security, but also by military and police officers.
In a telephone interview with an Egyptian television station on Saturday night, Admiral Ossama Rabie, chairman of the Egyptian Suez Canal Authority (SCA), said the ship had « moved 30 degrees to the right and left » for the first time. « This is a good indicator, » he said, of the progress of efforts to unblock the sea giant. According to a tweet on Sunday from Richard Meade, editor of Lloyd’s List, « sources close to the salvage operation told me this morning that optimism in the survey team was rising and they were hopeful that the ship could be broken free within 24 to 48 hours ».
Delays and costs
The 220,000-ton, 400-metre vessel has been stuck since Tuesday in the southern part of the Suez Canal, a few kilometres from the city of the same name, preventing all traffic from passing through the passage, which accounts for more than 10% of international maritime trade. As a result, more than 300 ships are stuck at both ends of the canal linking the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, Rabie said on Saturday.
Each day of blockage causes major delays and costs to the industry, and the first concrete effects are being felt: Syria announced on Saturday that it had begun rationing fuel distribution, in response to the delayed delivery of an oil shipment.
The canal authorities said Egypt was losing between $12 million and $14 million per day of closure, while the trade journal Lloyd’s List estimates that the container ship is blocking the equivalent of about €8.1 billion worth of cargo every day. Traffic websites such as Vesselfinder and Marine Traffic still show on Sunday the dozens of ships waiting in the Gulf of Suez, in the waiting area in the middle of the canal or at the entrance to the Mediterranean, near Port Said.
Meanwhile, shipping giant Maersk and Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd said on Thursday they were considering diverting their ships to the Cape of Good Hope, a 9,000-kilometre diversions and at least seven more days of sailing. Mr Rabie, speaking for the first time at a press conference on Saturday, cited possible « human error » as the cause of the incident. He said the weather conditions initially mentioned were not the only reason for the grounding.