The Ever Given, a container ship almost as long as the Empire State Building, ran aground in the Egyptian Channel on Tuesday after being caught in 40-knot winds and a sandstorm.
The tugs are now expected to be able to take advantage of Saturday’s winds and tides to dislodge the 224,000-ton ship, Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chief Osama Rabie told Egyptian news outlet Youm7.
Towing and pulling maneuvers for the ship began Friday night, with nine tugs pulling the front of the giant container ship after dredging work was completed, Rabie said.
He added that towing maneuvers require the availability of several factors, including winds and tides.
More than 260 ships are awaiting transit through the blocked waterway, including 13 carrying livestock, and the total number is expected to rise as the crisis continues, maritime monitoring website Marine Traffic told CNN.
If the last attempt to refloat the ship fails, the ship, which is 400 meters (1,312 feet) long and 59 meters (193 feet) wide, could still be released “early next week,” according to established plans. by the director of a Dutch salvage company.
Peter Berdowski of Boskalis, a sister company of Dutch firm SMIT Salvage, told Dutch television news “Nieuwsuur” that his plan A is to try to free the ship without removing the containers from the deck.
“There are two heavy tugs on the way,” he said Friday night. “Together they have a pulling power of about 400 tons. So they are really big guys. They come this weekend.”
Most importantly, he said, further investigation has shown that the ship’s stern “is not completely sunk into the clay.” That would allow tugs to harness the power of the stick by pulling the stern, he said.
He said the hope is that her pulling power, combined with the dredging work now underway, a 16 to 20 inch high tide next week, and the “leverage” of the ship’s stern being relatively free, will enough “to release the ship sometime early next week.”
If that fails, Berdowski also came up with a plan B.
“In parallel, we are already mobilizing a crane,” he said. “This will also be delivered this weekend, which will allow us to remove the containers from the front of the ship.”
He said it would potentially involve removing up to 600 containers, to lighten the load on the ship’s bow and thus on the canal bank.
“Getting off the ship is one thing, but you also have to get rid of those 600 containers somewhere,” he said. “Right next to the ship is the desert. So removing those containers also becomes a puzzle.”
That could mean an additional delay of days. “But the most important thing is that, in principle, we are aligning everything to, in a logical sequence, take the necessary steps,” Berdowski said.
Fear for cattle
Meanwhile, billions of dollars in vital cargo and sensitive products are behind on ships whose passage is blocked, including ships that transport livestock bound for different countries in Europe and Asia.
The European director of the NGO Animals International, Gabriel Paun, warned that thousands of animals transported in 13 boats, mostly Romanians, could be at risk of dying if the situation is not resolved in the coming days.
Currently, more ships carrying livestock are approaching the Suez Canal, Paun said.
“We are sitting in front of a great tragedy if the canal is not released in the next 24 hours because there are vessels that will be left without [livestock] food and water for the next two days, “said Paun.
Some ships have food and water for six more days and “if they decide to return to Romania today, then they have a chance, but if the blockade lasts for two to six more days, we will have a disaster,” added Paun.
A ship carrying cattle, the Nabolsi, has been sailing for 21 days after leaving Colombia on March 6, and now awaits passage through the blocked canal with animals on board, Marine Traffic spokesman Georgios Hatzimanolis said.
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 10 ships, including tankers and LNG tankers and container ships, had deviated from the canal as of Friday, according to Marine Traffic and data intelligence firm Kpler.
“There are already several ships … without passing [the route from the Mediterranean into the canal] and now we’re heading south … it’s the right time to make that decision, “said Lars Jensen, director of Sea Intelligence Consulting, a firm that provides consulting to the shipping industry.
“So for now, it will appear that the ships that are waiting in line [in the canal]I would just cross [their] fingers and I hope this is resolved, “he added.
The Indian government said on Friday that it had advised its shipping lines to explore the option of diverting ships through South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope while the situation in the canal is resolved, according to a statement from the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry. . .
He pointed out that said route change usually takes an additional 15 days.
This Suez Canal route is used by Indian exporters and importers for $ 200 billion worth of trade with North America, South America and Europe, according to the statement. The ministry added that it would identify and prioritize perishable cargo for its movement.
Even before Ever Given ran aground, global supply chains were being stretched to the limit, making it very expensive to transport goods around the world and causing shortages of some products. A prolonged closure of the key route between Asia, Europe and North America would only make matters worse.
Discussing the issue of potential damage claims, Toshiaki Fujiwara, Senior Managing Director of Shoei Kisen KK, said on Friday that “the company has not received any claims at this time”, adding that “it may take a [to] two or several years to get to those details. “
Evergreen Marine, the Taiwanese company that operates the ship, has claimed that Shoei Kisen KK is responsible for the accident, Fujiwara confirmed.
Magdy Samaan reported from Cairo, Mostafa Salem from Abu Dhabi and Mick Krever from London, while Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London. CNN’s Jessie Yeung, Sugam Pokharel, Tim Lister, and Pamela Boykoff contributed to this report.