Ship Stuck in Suez Canal (2)

 

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Scramble Against Time to Free Ship Stuck in Suez Canal

Last Updated 
March 28, 2021, 7:01 a.m. ET4 hours ago
4 hours ago

Days after the Ever Given became lodged in the canal, its rudder has been freed and dredging is complete. Some salvagers hope it could be freed this weekend, but the wait for shipping to resume continues.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Dredging and dread as the race to free the Ever Given is on.

  • Human error is considered in cause of ship’s grounding.

  • From any vantage point, the Ever Given is a Goliath.

  • Every day, the cost of the blockage grows more substantial.

  • Tugboats and dredgers vs. one very heavy ‘beached whale.’

  • A tiny village finds itself an onlooker in the scramble to free the Ever Given.

  • Why the internet loves the Suez Canal stuck ship saga.

 
 

Dredging and dread as the race to free the Ever Given is on.

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0:55Days Later, a Cargo Ship Is Still Stuck Across the Suez Canal
 
A ship has been stuck in the Suez Canal in Egypt since Tuesday evening, after powerful winds forced the ship aground on one of the canal’s banks, shutting down traffic in both directions.CreditCredit...Sima Diab for The New York Times

When the Ever Given container ship ran aground in the Suez Canal on Tuesday, blocking shipping traffic through the key global thoroughfare, the world looked on in wonder at how the authorities would unstick the behemoth.

Days later, the vessel is still grounded despite frantic efforts to free it, and fears have swelled over the cascading costs. Already, shipping analysts estimate, the traffic jam has held up nearly $10 billion in trade each day.

Some experts have grown hopeful after the ship’s rudder was freed on Friday night.

“Yesterday at 10:30 p.m., the rudder moved and the engines started rolling,” Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie, chief of Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority, said at a news conference on Saturday. “We were hoping for a big push, but the tide was very low.”

He added, “I cannot give a timetable for when we will be done.”

So as a salvage team and canal authorities continued their battle Saturday to dislodge the four-football-field-long leviathan.

From the deck of a tugboat in the Suez Canal, where the Egyptian authorities allowed journalists to glimpse the salvage operation for the first time on Saturday evening, the Ever Given looked like a fallen skyscraper, lights ablaze. Three boats that barely reached halfway up the word EVERGREEN painted on the ship’s side, for its Taiwanese operator, had nosed up to its starboard side, keeping it stable.

A powerful tugboat sat near the ship’s stern, waiting for the next attempt to push and pull it out. Analysts and canal officials had said that they would try again at high tide, when the increased water level could help the ship break free. But high tide, which was forecast for a little after 10:30 p.m., came and went without progress.

Global supply chains were another day closer to a full-blown crisis.

Vessels packed with the world’s goods — including cars, oil, livestock and laptops — usually flow through the waterway with ease, supplying much of the globe as they transverse the quickest path from Asia and the Middle East to Europe and the East Coast of the United States.

 

MEDITERRANEAN SEA

Port Said

EGYPT

Suez Canal

Sinai Peninsula

EGYPT

SUEZ

GULF

25 MILES

Source: Satellite image by CNES, via Airbus

By Scott Reinhard

“Look around you — 90 percent of what’s in the room came from China,” said Alan Murphy, the founder of Sea-Intelligence, a maritime data and analysis company. “All global retail trade moves in containers, or 90 percent of it. So everything is impacted. Name any brand name, and they will be stuck on one of those vessels.”

Easing the bottleneck depends on the salvagers’ ability to clear away the sand and mud where the Ever Given is stuck and to lighten the ship’s load enough to help it float again, all while tugboats try to push and pull it free.

Though determined to free the vessel this weekend, salvagers’ best chance may arrive on Monday, when a spring tide will raise the canal’s water level by up to 18 inches, analysts and shipping agents said.

The ship’s technical manager, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, said that larger tugboats have arrived to help, with two more due on Sunday. Several dredgers are digging around the vessel’s bow, and high-capacity pumps will draw water from the vessel’s ballast tanks to lighten the ship, the company said.

Officials will also need to clear other vessels from the area, a huge coordination effort, and account for the possibility that the Ever Given’s grounding may have rearranged the seabed. Any shifting in the seabed could make it harder for other ships to pass through the area even after the Ever Given has been moved, said Capt. Paul Foran, a marine consultant who has worked on salvage operations.

With the ship sagging in the middle, its bow and stern both caught in positions for which it was not designed, the hull is vulnerable to stress and cracks, both experts said.

Mr. Mosselhy said teams of divers were inspecting the hull and had found no damage. But in most other respects, the Ever Given has succumbed to Murphy’s Law: Everything that could go wrong did, starting with the ship’s size, among the world’s largest.

“It was the biggest ship in the convoy, and she ended up in the worst part of the canal” — a narrow section with only one lane, Captain Sloane said. “And that was just really unfortunate.”

If the ship breaks free by Monday, the shipping industry can absorb the inconvenience, analysts said, but beyond that, supply chains and consumers could start to see major disruptions.

 

Human error is considered in cause of ship’s grounding.

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0:52Vessels Accumulate as Cargo Ship Remains Lodged in Suez Canal
The Ever Given container ship on Saturday remained lodged in the Suez Canal in Egypt, where it had been stuck since Tuesday. Authorities said the jam has caused a backlog of more than 300 ships waiting to cross.CreditCredit...Sima Diab for The New York Times

The operators of the Ever Given have said that the vessel ran aground because of the high winds of a sandstorm. While shipping experts said that wind might have been a factor, they also suggested that human error may have come into play.

Egyptian officials offered a similar assessment at a news conference on Saturday.

“A significant incident like this is usually the result of many reasons: The weather was one reason, but maybe there was a technical error, or a human error,” said Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie, chief of Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority.

The ship’s operators had said this week that its stacked containers had essentially acted like a giant sail amid the sandstorm.

But villagers in nearby Manshiyet Rugola noted that other ships in the same convoy had passed through the canal without incident. So had previous ships in previous storms, they pointed out.

“We’ve seen worse winds,” said Ahmad al-Sayed, 19, a security guard, “but nothing like that ever happened before.”

Shipping experts have asked the same question.

“I am highly questioning, why was it the only one that went aground?” said Capt. Paul Foran, a marine consultant who has worked on other salvage operations. “But they can talk about all that later. Right now, they just have to get that beast out of the canal.”

General Rabie said that ship captains are asked to keep any material that might be required for an investigation. He noted that 12 northbound ships had passed through the canal ahead of the Ever Given that day, and another 30 ships had traveled through from the opposite direction.

Last year, General Rabie said, 18,840 ships had traversed the canal without an accident.

Nada Rashwan and