Egypt rushes to evict giant ship blocking Suez Canal


ISMAILIA, Egypt (AP) – Tugboats and a specialized suction dredger worked Friday to dislodge a giant container ship that has been stuck sideways in Egypt’s Suez Canal for the past three days, blocking a crucial waterway for transportation. world maritime.

The Ever Given, a Panama-flagged ship that carries cargo between Asia and Europe, ran aground in the narrow canal that runs between Africa and the Sinai Peninsula. It got stuck in a single-lane stretch of the canal, about six kilometers (3.7 miles) north of the south entrance, near the city of Suez.

The ship, owned by the Japanese firm Shoei Kisen KK, has blocked traffic on the canal, causing global trade headaches.

About 10% of world trade flows through the canal, which is particularly crucial for the transportation of oil. The shutdown could also affect oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East.

At least 150 ships were waiting for the Ever Given to be authorized, including ships near Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea, Port Suez on the Red Sea, and those already trapped in the canal system in Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake, said Leth Agencies, which provides services for the channel.

As of Friday morning, the ship remained ashore, Leth Agencies added. It is unclear when the route would reopen.

An Egyptian official with the Suez Canal Authority described the work as complex, saying that those trying to evacuate the ship wanted to avoid complications that could extend the canal closure. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

The bow of the Ever Given touched the eastern wall, while her stern seemed to be lodged against the western wall.

A team from Boskalis, a Dutch salvage firm, began working with the canal authority on Thursday. Rescue efforts have focused on dredging to remove sand and mud around the port side of the ship’s bow.

The Suez Canal Authority, which operates the waterway, deployed tugs and a specialized suction dredger that can move 2,000 cubic meters of material every hour.

The Suez Canal Authority said late Thursday that it would need to remove between 15,000 and 20,000 cubic meters (530,000 to 706,000 cubic feet) of sand to reach a depth of 12 to 16 meters (39 to 52 feet). That depth is likely to allow the ship to float freely again, he said.

It was not immediately clear what caused Ever Given to snag on Tuesday. GAC, a global transportation and logistics company, said the ship had experienced a power outage without elaborating.

Evergreen Marine Corp., a major Taiwan-based shipping company that operates the ship, said in a statement that Ever Given had been overtaken by high winds when it entered the canal from the Red Sea, but that none of its containers had sunk.

The Suez Canal Authority also blamed bad weather for the incident.

Using data from Automatic Identification System trackers on ships at sea, data firm Refinitiv shared an analysis with the AP showing that more than 300 ships remained en route to the waterway over the next two weeks.

Some vessels could still change course, but the agglomeration of vessels including the Suez Canal as their destination shows that an even bigger backlog is coming for shippers already under pressure amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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