The huge ship blocking the Suez Canal started moving slightly yesterday when the head of a salvage company revealed his plan to evacuate the tanker.
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.
After the tanker was blocked there for days, it moved slightly on Saturday, two sources told the Suez Canal Authority (SCA).
Little progress in ship movement has been made thanks to a combination of dredging material from 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 chairman of the SCA, Osama Rabie, told local television that water had flowed under the ship.
He told a press conference yesterday, “The stern of the ship began to move towards Suez and that was a positive sign until 11pm (9pm GMT) that night, but the tide dropped significantly and we stopped.
“We expect the ship to slide and move from where it is at any time.”
By Friday, excavators removed around 20,000 tons of sand around the bow.
The boss of Boskalis, the parent company of the Dutch company Smit Salvage, which was brought in to support the SCA, said heavy tugs with a total capacity of 400 tons would arrive sometime this weekend.
Peter Berdowski said: “We want to make it after the weekend, but everything has to work just right for that.”
He also said a land crane could facilitate the loading of the Ever Given by removing containers, although experts have warned that such a process could be complex and lengthy.
“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 that range from screws to patio furniture, as experts warned that the “phenomenal effects” of the deadlocked Ever Given will be felt for “months”.
Shipping expert Lars Jensen said there was “no hiding from the wave effect” of the blockade, which caused congestion of over 321 ships in the Red Sea and losses of US $ 9 billion a day.
Mr. Jensen, Managing Director of Sea-Intelligence Consulting, warned: “Even if the channel was opened tomorrow, it would lead to delays in shipping for months.
“This is very important for businesses and retailers.
“Eventually it will open again, and when that happens it will be like ketchup out of a bottle.
“Europe normally receives around 50,000 containers a day, as the ports can largely handle this electricity. Suddenly there will be a huge piece of cargo coming in at once, causing the ports to be overloaded.
“Ports will not be able to handle this. Once you remove all of the cargo from the ships they are hauling on trucks and rails, this will be a problem.
“The longer it takes to clear the blockage, the worse it gets.”