International efforts to remove the skyscraper-sized cargo ship blocking Egypt’s Suez Canal intensified, but made little progress on Thursday as the sea congestion ravaged world trade.
Egyptian authorities said shipping was still “temporarily suspended” after the container got stuck sideways across the canal due to a severe dust storm and poor visibility.
This meant that traffic on a route that accounts for around 12 percent of world trade came to a standstill when the shipping saga passed the 48-hour mark.
A fleet of eight large tugs was sent to get the stowed container ship afloat again, the Suez Canal authority said in a statement on Thursday.
The Taiwanese shipping company Evergreen, which operates the stranded tanker, announced that two professional rescue teams from Japan and the Netherlands are now helping the Egyptian authorities create a “more effective plan”.
Meanwhile, the ship’s technical director, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, said it had made “increased efforts” to get the ship afloat again by sending “specialized suction dredgers” to the construction site after an attempt this morning failed.
“Another attempt will be made later today,” added the statement.
However, experts said the frenzied flotation effort could take longer than many would hope.
Peter Berdowski, CEO of the Dutch company Boskalis, one of the maritime service providers currently trying to free the ship, said the rescue mission was far from easy.
“It’s like a giant beach whale. It’s a tremendous weight on the sand, ”he said. talk to Dutch television.
“We may have to work with a combination of weight reduction, removing containers, oil and water from the ship, pulling boats and dredging sand.”
“We cannot rule out that it may take weeks, depending on the situation,” he added.
“We have already seen an increase in the price of oil due to the tankers anchored in the Red Sea,” Laleh Khalili, professor of international politics at Queen Mary University in London, told NBC News.
Even if the rescue effort is successful, “it could take about a week to clear the jam,” she added.
Download the NBC News App for breaking news and politics
At least 150 other tankers have been waiting to sail through the narrow canal since the 400-meter Ever Given ship stuck sideways and ran aground on Tuesday morning after gusty winds of 30 knots caused the ship to deviate from its course .
The Suez Canal normally allows 50 cargo ships daily between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea and provides an important trade corridor between Europe and Asia.
Photos released by the Suez authorities showed a dredger removing earth and stones from the bank of the canal and around the bow of the ship.
“They would try to remove anything that is easy to remove, but the place they are stuck in is not near a port, it is quite a distance from anything,” said Professor Jasper Graham-Jones, a marine mechanical engineer from Plymouth University told Sky News.
“The clear option here is to pull lots and lots of tugs and dig at the sides.”
(Sky News is owned by Comcast, the parent company of NBC News.)
Evergreen said it had “asked the shipowner to investigate the source of the accident.”
The ship owners apologized on Thursday for the disturbance caused by the sea congestion.
“We sincerely regret that this accident has caused great concern to the ships that are supposed to sail or sail in the Suez Canal,” said Japanese company Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd.
According to the Suez Canal Authority, almost 19,000 ships with a net tonnage of 1.17 billion tons passed through the canal last year.
Traffic jams are rare. In 2017, a Japanese container ship blocked the canal, but the Egyptian authorities got the ship back on the road within a few hours.
“In the long term, this delay could force a rethink about ship size,” said Khalili of Queen Mary University. “And if there are problems as to who takes responsibility for the accident … this can force a settlement of the ship ownership structures.”
Suez is still known for being at the center of an international crisis in 1956 after Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nassar nationalized the canal, which was previously British and French owned. The move resulted in an invasion that resulted in the humiliation of the Western European powers.
Charlene Gubash and Olivier Fabre contributed.