Suez Canal: Container Ship Blockade Forces Syria To Ration Fuel While Waiting For Refueling


Suez Canal officials hoped that high tide and dredging efforts could cause the giant ship to be released on Saturday night, four days after it ran aground. But despite last night’s progress in releasing the rudder and propeller, the ship remains stuck in the channel.

Meanwhile, the backlog of ships waiting to transit the vital Egyptian waterway has risen to 326, according to Leth Agencies, the canal’s service provider.

Syria’s Ministry of Oil and Mineral Resources said the blockade of the Suez Canal had “hampered oil supplies to Syria and delayed the arrival of a tanker carrying oil and petroleum products to Syria,” state-run SANA reported.

Amid fuel supply fears, the Middle Eastern nation has been forced to ration “the available quantities of petroleum derivatives, primarily diesel and benzene, to ensure their vital availability for as long as possible,” said the Saturday SANA.

The step has been taken “to ensure the continuous supply of basic services to Syrians such as bakeries, hospitals, water stations, communication centers and other vital institutions,” according to SANA, citing the ministry.

Syria will continue to ration oil supplies until “the return of the normal movement of shipping through the Suez Canal, which may take an unknown time,” he added.

The Ever Given, a massive ship almost as long as the Empire State Building, ran aground in the Egyptian canal on Tuesday after being caught in 40-knot winds and a sandstorm. Authorities are also investigating possible human or technical errors.

The blockade, on what is one of the busiest and most important waterways in the world, could have a major impact on already stretched global supply chains, and the disruption will increase with each passing day.

A team of salvage experts from the Dutch firm SMIT Salvage and the Japanese firm Nippon Salvage, who have worked on several high-profile operations in the past, have been appointed to assist the Suez Canal Authority in launching the ship, the Evergreen Marine rental company. it said in a statement.

The dredgers have been working to remove large amounts of sand and mud around the port side of the 224,000-ton ship’s bow.

At a press conference on Saturday, SCA President Osama Rabie gave details of the rescue operation, which he described as “technically difficult” and “involving many factors.”

“We are facing a difficult and complicated situation, we work on rocky ground, the tides are very high, in addition to the enormous size of the ship and the number of containers that make it difficult,” he said. “We cannot set a specific date for the ship to float, it depends on the ship’s response.”

About 9,000 tonnes of ballast water has been removed from the ship, Rabie said, and the dredging was carried out during low tides while 14 tugs worked during high tides. Rescuers managed to temporarily restart the rudder and propellers Friday night before a low tide halted their efforts, he said.

Two additional tugs are expected to arrive on Sunday to assist in the refloating efforts, according to the ship’s technical manager, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement.

If efforts to dislodge the ship with dredges and tugs fail, the next step may be to lighten the ship’s load by removing the containers, a laborious and time-consuming process that “hopefully” they wouldn’t have to resort to, Rabie said.

Rabie said the reasons for the accident remain unclear. “There are many factors or reasons, the fast winds and the sandstorm could have been a reason, but not the main reason, it could have been a technical error or a human error,” he said. “There will be more investigations.”

Meanwhile, billions of dollars in vital cargo and sensitive products are behind on the hundreds of ships whose path is blocked. About a dozen of them transport cattle.

The EU director of the NGO Animals International, Gabriel Paun, warned that thousands of animals transported on the boats, mostly Romanian, could be at risk of dying if the situation is not resolved in the coming days.

CNN’s Magdy Samaan reported from Cairo and Mohammed Tawfeeq from Baghdad, while Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London. CNN’s Mostafa Salem contributed to this report.

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