Container vessel stranded on the Suez Canal may take weeks to move

Mar, 25, 2021 Posted by Ruth Hollard

Week 202113

According to maritime transport experts, it could take a few days – or even weeks – to unblock the Ever Given, the 224,000-ton container ship that has been stuck since March 23 on the Suez Canal, blocking one of the busiest shipping routes in the world.

The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) has stated that the container ship – which is almost as long as the Empire State Building is high – ran aground on March 23 after being hit by 40-knot winds during a sandstorm that caused poor visibility and poor navigation.

According to Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, whose sister company SMIT Salvage is now working to release the ship, his company concluded that it was impossible to remove the ship with its current cargo on board. “The ship with the weight [it has] is now impossible to pull,” he said. “You can forget that.”

The first step would be to remove fuel and ballast water from the vessel and try to move it at high tide. If that doesn’t work, the team will have to remove the containers and try to dig out the sandbanks on which the ship is stuck.

A senior SCA channel pilot told CNN on March 24th that moving the huge ship is “technically very complicated” and could take days. The official – who spoke on condition of anonymity since he was not allowed to give statements to the media – said that the equipment needed to float the ship is available, but it depends on how it is used. “If used incorrectly, it could take a week, but if used correctly, it could take just two days,” he said.

How the Ever Given can be removed:

Tugboats: while excavators dig out material close to the bow, tugboats try to pull and push the ship to free itself

Dredging: sand and sediment are removed under the bow using suction, allowing the ship to float freely

Lightening the load: the load and fuel can be removed to reduce weight and make the ship float higher

Source: BSM

SCA has officially suspended traffic on the waterway while work to clear the vessel continues.

The ship, measuring 400 meters long and 59 meters wide, continues to block traffic in both directions of the main shipping channel. Dozens of cargo ships carrying vital goods remain trapped at both ends of the canal. Congestion has even led to an increase in the price of oil.

Growing congestion

Dozens of ships, including other large container ships, oil tankers carrying oil and gas, and bulk carriers retreated at both ends of the canal and created one of the worst ship traffic jams seen in years. Approximately 30% of global container ships pass through the 193 kilometers of the Suez Canal daily or about 12% of total global trade.

Some shipping companies may be forced to redirect ships around the southern tip of Africa, which would increase the voyage by about a week.

According to Maersk, seven of its container ships were affected. The Danish company said in a statement that four of the ships are trapped in the nearby canal system, while the rest are waiting to enter the passage. “Maersk constantly monitors the current situation on the Suez Canal and is closely monitoring the efforts to remove the impacted vessel. Svitzer, our towing and security service provider, is participating in ongoing operations, as requested by the Suez Canal Authority.”

The maritime services company GAC issued a note to its customers overnight stating that efforts to free the ship using tugs are continuing, but wind conditions and the size of the ship “were hampering the operation.”

The container ship Ever Given is owned by the Japanese shipping company Shoei Kisen KK, the company’s CEO, Toshiaki Fujiawara, confirmed to CNN. “This accident caused a lot of problems for various parties and we assume that there will be damage claims,” said Yumi Shinohara, deputy manager of ship management. “However, at the moment we are focusing on removing the ship, and we still don’t know the details of which parts, how much damage, and how much liability, and so on,” added Shinohara.

According to Fujiwara, the Suez Canal Authority is trying to move the vessel using tugs and trying to remove sand and dirt from the ship’s grounded bow.

Sources: CNN and BBC

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