SUEZ, Egypt (AP) – A giant container ship remained stuck sideways in Egypt’s Suez Canal for the fifth day on Saturday as authorities prepared to make further attempts to free the ship and reopen a crucial waterway from east to west for global shipping.
The Ever Given, a Panama-flagged ship that carries cargo between Asia and Europe, ran aground Tuesday in the narrow canal that runs between Africa and the Sinai Peninsula.
The huge vessel 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.
Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, Ever Given’s technical manager, said an attempt on Friday to free him failed. Plans were in the works to pump water from the interior spaces of the ship, and two more tugs should arrive Sunday to join others already trying to move the massive ship, he said.
An official with the Suez Canal Authority said they planned to make at least two attempts on Saturday to free the ship when high tide goes out. He said the timing depends on the tide.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to inform journalists.
Egyptian authorities have banned media access to the site. The canal authority said its boss, Lieutenant General Osama Rabei, would hold a press conference on Saturday in the city of Suez, a few kilometers (miles) from the ship’s site.
Shoei Kisen Chairman Yukito Higaki told a press conference at the company’s headquarters in Imabari, western Japan, that 10 tugboats were deployed and workers were dredging the banks and the sea floor near the bow of the boat to try to get it afloat again when the high tide begins to go out .
Shoei Kisen said in a statement Saturday that the company was considering removing the containers to lighten the vessel if refloating efforts fail, but that it would be a difficult operation.
The White House said it has offered to help Egypt reopen the canal. “We have equipment and capacity that most countries do not have and we are looking at what we can do and what help we can provide,” President Joe Biden told reporters on Friday.
An initial investigation showed the vessel ran aground due to high winds and ruled out a mechanical or engine failure, the company and the canal authority said. GAC, a global transportation and logistics company, had previously said the ship had experienced a power outage, but did not elaborate.
A maritime traffic jam increased to around 280 vessels on Saturday outside the Suez Canal, according to canal service provider Leth Agencies.
Some vessels began to change course and dozens of vessels were still en route to the waterway, according to data firm Refinitiv.
A prolonged closure of the crucial waterway would cause delays in the global shipping chain. Some 19,000 vessels passed through the canal last year, according to official figures. About 10% of world trade flows through the canal, which is particularly crucial for the transportation of oil. The shutdown could affect oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East.
It was not clear how long the blockade would last. Even after reopening the channel linking factories in Asia to consumers in Europe, the containers on hold are likely to arrive in busy ports, forcing them to face additional delays before unloading.
Apparently anticipating long delays, the owners of the stuck ship diverted a sister ship, the Ever Greet, on a course around Africa, according to satellite data.
Others are also being diverted. Liquefied natural gas carrier Pan Americas changed course in the mid-Atlantic, now pointing south to circle the southern tip of Africa, according to satellite data from MarineTraffic.com.