The giant container ship blocking the Suez Canal was moved nearly 100 feet, rescue workers said today in an effort to free the affected ship.
The 400-meter-long Ever Given was wedged diagonally across a southern section of the canal in strong winds early Tuesday, blocking one of the world’s busiest waterways.
More than 20,000 tons of sand have already been removed by excavators, while 14 tugs were used on Saturday to relocate the 400-meter Japanese-owned ship at high tide.
In a major breakthrough, rescue workers reportedly told NBC News foreign correspondent Raf Sanchez that they had managed to move the giant carrier about 30 meters.
Mr Sanchez wrote on Twitter: “Rescue workers say they managed to move the ship 30m. That’s something, but not enough when you have a ship almost as tall as the Empire State Building and the ship blocked. ” #Suez Channel.
“Today 12 tugs will be in use to continue the progress.”
Progress was made in ship movement over the weekend, thanks to a combination of dredging material around the tanker and pulling and pushing the ship with tugs.
However, strong winds and a strong tide made it difficult to free the boat.
The Dutch-flagged Alpine Guard and Italian-flagged Carlo Magno, who had already been called in to assist tugs, reached the Red Sea near the city of Suez early on Sunday, according to satellite data from MarineTraffic.com.
The tugs will nudge the Ever Given while the dredgers continue to suck up sand from under the ship and cake up mud on the port side, said Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, who manages the Ever Given.
Lieutenant General Osama Rabei said an investigation was still ongoing but did not rule out human or technical errors.
Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement claims that “initial investigations rule out a mechanical or motor failure as the cause of the grounding”.
At least one initial report, however, indicated that the ship, which was carrying around 20,000 containers at the time of the incident, was hit by a “blackout”.
When asked when they want to free the ship and reopen the canal, Lieutenant General Rabei said, “I can’t say because I don’t know.”
Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd, the company that owns the ship, is considering removing containers if other attempts to float fail.
Workers reportedly plan to make two attempts to free the ship on Sunday, coinciding with the high tide, aided by a full moon on Sunday evening
Peter Berdowski, managing director of Boskalis, told the Dutch television program Nieuwsuur late Friday that he expected the ship to be freed by Sunday evening.
“If we fail to solve it next week, we will have to remove about 600 containers from the bow to reduce the weight,” he added.
“That will set us back for days at least, because where to leave all these containers will be quite a mystery.”
The Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly thanked foreign partners on Saturday for offers to get the ship afloat again.
Tanker shipping rates for oil products have nearly doubled after the ship came to a standstill, threatening costly delays for companies already addressing Covid-19 restrictions.
Experts have warned of price increases in UK stores after the blockade rocked world trade.
Buyers may struggle to find products ranging from screws to patio furniture, as experts warned that the “phenomenal effects” of the deadlocked Ever Given will be felt for “months”.
According to official figures, around 10 percent of world trade flows through the canal, with around 19,000 ships passing through it last year.
The shutdown could affect oil and gas shipments from the Middle East to Europe. Syria has already begun rationing the distribution of fuel in the war-torn country amid concerns about delays in deliveries due to the blockade.
According to the canal service provider Leth Agencies, more than 320 ships were waiting to sail through the waterway to either the Mediterranean or the Red Sea by early Sunday.
Dozens of others still gave their destination as a canal, although shippers increasingly seem to be avoiding the passage.
The largest shipping company in the world, AP Moller-Maersk from Denmark, warned its customers that it could take three to six days to clear the backlog of ships on the canal. There are already 27 ships waiting for the company and its partners.
“We have diverted 15 ships so far where we have considered the delay in sailing around the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa to be equivalent to the current delay in sailing to Suez and the queue,” said the shipper.
Mediterranean Shipping Co, the world’s second largest, said it has already diverted at least 11 ships around the African Cape of Good Hope to bypass the channel.
It turned back two other ships and said it expected “some missed crossings as a result of this incident”.
“MSC assumes that this incident will have a significant impact on the transport of container goods and disrupt supply chains beyond the existing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic,” it said.