The Ever Given, a container ship almost as long as the Empire State Building, ran aground in the Egyptian Channel after being trapped by 40-knot winds and a sandstorm that caused poor visibility and poor navigation.
It has blocked one of the busiest waterways in the world, prompting frantic salvage efforts, including the use of two dredgers, nine tugboats and four excavators on the canal bank.
The dredgers are working hard to remove sand and mud from the bow of the ship, and will need to move 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), which could allow the ship to float, the SCA said Thursday. That’s roughly eight times the size of a lap pool.
“In addition to the dredgers that are already on site, a specialized suction dredger is now with the vessel and will soon begin work. This dredger can move 2,000 cubic meters of material every hour,” said Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, technical manager of the ship. Ever Given. , in a sentence.
The SCA added that it had discussed the option of moving the boat, which is 400 meters (1,312 feet) long and 59 meters (193 feet) wide, dredging the area around it.
The channel’s chief pilot at SCA told CNN Wednesday that re-floating the huge ship is “technically very complicated” and could take days.
A team of expert rescuers from Japan’s Dutch Smit Salvage and Nippon Salvage, who have worked on several high-profile operations in the past, have been appointed to help the Suez Canal Authority refloat the ship, the charter company said. Evergreen Marine in a statement. .
But each day that passes comes at a high cost for companies and countries whose trade has stalled due to stagnation. About 12% of the world’s trade volume passes through the Suez Canal and typically handles about $ 10 billion a day in cargo.
More than 18,800 ships with a net tonnage of 1.17 billion tons passed through the canal during 2020. That’s an average of 51.5 ships per day.
At least 160 ships carrying fuel and vital cargo are now waiting to pass through the blocked waterway, according to a senior canal pilot at the SCA. Some ships are deciding to divert their journey around Cape Horn to avoid the Suez Canal blockade, but they face an additional 3,800 miles and up to 12 days of additional sailing time, according to the International Chamber of Shipping.
“Not only will the goods on board the Ever Given be severely delayed on their voyage, but hundreds of other ships will also be affected. The damage done to the global supply chain will be significant,” said ICS Secretary General Guy Platten. .
Experts worry that if the ship is not released soon, the jam could affect the oil market, shipping and container rates, causing the cost of everyday goods to rise.
“Most of the trade between Asia and Europe still relies on the Suez Canal, and since vital goods, including vital medical equipment and PPE, move through these ships, we call on the Egyptian authorities to do their best to reopen the canal as soon as possible. possible, “Platten said.
But the shutdown now may have a much larger and more disruptive impact than during the last two shutdowns because the level of trade between Europe and Asia has grown substantially in subsequent decades.
“The size of shipping has become so large that it is very difficult for the Egyptian authorities to basically keep up with the growth,” CNN senior international correspondent Bill Wedeman said on Thursday. “The size of the Suez Canal in the last 50 years, its width, has basically doubled and it is clearly still not big enough.”
The Ever Given is owned by the Japanese shipping company Shoei Kisen KK. In a press release, Shoei Kisen apologized to other ships who were planning to sail and are now stuck. The company told CNN that they assume damages will be claimed for the incident, but their main focus now is to refloat the ship.
CNN’s Hamdi Alkhshali and Mostafa Salem contributed to this report.