Ship ‘partially refloated,’ but still stuck in Suez Canal

“Don’t cheer too soon,” said Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, the salvage company hired to extract the Ever Given, to the Dutch NPO Radio 1.

Last Tuesday, the Ever Given skyscraper got stuck on the side of the crucial waterway, causing massive traffic jams. The obstacle has held up $ 9 billion in world trade every day and weighed on supply chains already strained by the coronavirus pandemic. At least 367 ships, carrying everything from crude oil to cattle, were waiting to cross the canal, while dozen took the alternative route around the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa – a detour that would add two weeks to the trips Ships hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and other costs.

According to data firm Refinitiv, Egypt has already lost over $ 95 million in revenue as transit stopped. If the ship is liberated in the next few days, it would take at least 10 days to clean up the backlog from ships already waiting to sail through the canal, Refinitiv added.

The partial liberation of the ship came after intense efforts to push and pull the ship with 10 tugs as the full moon brought the spring tide, said canal service company Leth Agencies, which raised the canal’s water level and was hoping for a breakthrough. Videos widely shared on social media showed tugs in the canal sounding their horns to celebrate that Ever Given was partially torn from the shore.

However, the rescue team said the ship’s bow got stuck in the sandy mud on the edge of the canal.

“The good news is that the stern is free, but we saw that as the easiest part of the job,” Berdowski said, noting that the main challenge remained at the front of the ship, where the workers would struggle to get the full loaded to transport 220,000. Barrel vessel over the clay on the canal bank.

An official from Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the company that owns Ever Given, confirmed that the ship’s bow had moved slightly, but warned that the bottom of the ship was still touching the ocean floor. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.

On Monday morning, an Associated Press journalist discovered that the ship’s position had changed significantly. Where previously only the stern of the ship was visible, the side of the ship could now be seen.

Lieutenant General Osama Rabei, the head of the Suez Canal Authority, said the ship responded well to “pull-and-push maneuvers” early Monday. He said the workers straightened the ship’s position by 80% and that the stern was 102 meters from the canal bank.

The international benchmark Brent crude oil price fell 2% on the news to just over $ 63.

When the tide returns at 11:30 a.m. local time on Monday, the rescue teams will continue their attempts to tow the ship into the middle of the waterway and toward Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south ends of the channel where it will undergo engineering testing, said Rabei.

Overnight, several dredgers tried to suck up 27,000 cubic meters of sand and mud from around the ship. Another powerful tug, the Italian flagged Carlo Magno, arrived on site on Monday to join the work, and the flotilla would now focus its efforts on the front of the ship, Berdowski said.

Although the ship is vulnerable to damage in its current position, the ship owner on Monday denied concerns, saying the ship’s engine was functional and would head north if released. It has not been decided whether the Japanese-flagged Panama-flagged ship transporting goods from Asia to Europe will continue to be shipped to its original destination, Rotterdam, or whether it will have to call at another port for repairs, the Shoei official said .

The ship operators did not offer a timetable for the reopening of the crucial channel, which carries over 10% of world trade, including 7% of world oil. According to the canal authorities, over 19,000 ships passed through in the past year. Millions of barrels of oil and liquefied natural gas flow through the artery from the Persian Gulf to Europe and North America. Goods made in China – furniture, clothing, supermarket basics – that are shipped to Europe must also go through the canal or make the detour around Africa.

The unprecedented shutdown has threatened to disrupt oil and gas supplies from the Middle East to Europe, creating fears of prolonged delays, good shortages and rising costs for consumers.

Canal authorities have desperately tried to free the ship by relying only on tugs and dredges, despite analysts warning that a 400-meter ship may be too heavy for such an operation. As the window for breakthrough narrows and the tide recedes this week, fears grow that authorities may be forced to lighten the ship by removing the ship’s 20,000 containers – a complex operation that requires specialized equipment that is in Egypt cannot be found and could take days or days to weeks.

The salvage team’s next step is to use high pressure water jets to dredge under the bow of the ship to pull the ship out of the clay, Berdowski said.

“If that doesn’t work, you end up having to remove weight, and that can only happen by removing containers from the front,” he added. “But that is a process that takes time.”

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