Tuesday 30th March Update –
Salvage teams have freed the Ever Given container ship stuck for nearly a week in the Suez Canal, ending a crisis that had clogged one of the world’s most vital waterways and halted billions of dollars a day in maritime commerce. Helped by the high tide, a convoy of tugboats wrenched the bulbous bow of the ship from the canal’s sandy bank.
At least 367 vessels, carrying everything from crude oil to cattle, are backed up as they wait to pass through the canal. Dozens of others have taken the long, alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip — a 5000km detour that costs ships hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and other costs.
Monday 29th March Update –
Suez Canal salvage teams have been alternating between dredging and tugging to dislodge the massive container ship blocking the busy waterway, which now seems to have been further complicated by rock under the ship’s bow.
It has cost the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) $US14-15 million ($18.3-19.6 million) each day the 400-metre long Ever Given ship remains lodged.
Dredgers working to dislodge the stranded vessel have so far shifted 27,000 cubic metres of sand, to a depth of 18 metres, and efforts would continue around the clock dependant on wind conditions and tides, the SCA said in a statement.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has ordered preparations for the possible removal of some of the ship’s 18,300 containers, SCA Chairman Osama Rabie told Egypt’s Extra News.
At least 369 boats are waiting to transit the canal, Mr Rabie said, including dozens of container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vessels.
Friday 26th March Update-
“In co-operation with local authorities and Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, a vessel management company, we are trying to refloat [the Ever Given], but we are facing extreme difficulty,” the owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha, said in a statement on Thursday.
“We sincerely apologise for causing a great deal of worry to ships in the Suez Canal and those planning to go through the canal,” it added.
Industry sources told Reuters news agency that even if the Ever Given was refloated quickly its owner and insurers faced claims totalling millions of dollars for the delays and extra costs accrued by other companies.
Global crude oil prices rose 6% on Wednesday after traffic through the canal was suspended, though they fell more than 4% on Thursday. More than 150 vessels are currently waiting in the area to pass.
The ship management company added that a team of salvage experts from Smit Salvage had been appointed and were attending to the ship. The CEO of Smit Salvage’s parent company, Boskalis, warned that it could take weeks, rather than days, to refloat the ship. “We might have to work with a combination of reducing the weight by removing containers, oil and water from the ship, tug boats and dredging of sand.”
Thursday 25th March –
The 200,000 tonne ship, MV Ever Given, built in 2018 and operated by Evergreen Marine, ran aground and became lodged sideways across the waterway at about 07:40 local time on Tuesday 23rd March.
Dozens of vessels are stuck, waiting for rescue boats to free the 400m-long ship. The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said the stranded ship was caught up in a gale-force sandstorm, a common occurrence in Egypt’s Sinai desert at this time of year, which blotted out light and limited the captain’s ability to see. It was “mainly due to the lack of visibility due to the weather conditions when winds reached 40 knots, which affected the control” of the ship, the SCA said.
About 12% of global trade passes through the Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and provides the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe.
The company that manages the container ship, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) has said In a statement, it that “immediate priorities are to safely re-float the vessel and for marine traffic in the Suez Canal to safely resume”.
Experts have warned the process could take several days. Eight tug boats are working to re float the ship, and diggers on the ground have been removing sand from where it is wedged into the side of the canal bank.
The Suez Canal is an artery of world trade, connecting the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, and providing an avenue for vessels to pass between Asia and the Middle East and Europe. The main alternative, a passage round the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa, takes considerably longer. On average, nearly 50 vessels per day pass along the canal, although at times the number can be much higher. Egypt has reopened the canal’s older channel to divert some traffic until the grounded ship can move again.