Cairo – Maritime traffic through the Suez Canal remained blocked on Friday for the fourth day in a row, with dozens of ships trapped at the northern and southern entrances to the shortest route between Asia and Africa. EffortsTrapped sideways through the narrow canal since Tuesday, they recovered, and while one of the teams in charge of the operation said it could take weeks, an adviser to Egypt’s president offered a more optimistic schedule.
Mohab Mamish, seaports advisor to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and former chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, told AFP news agency on Thursday that canal navigation “will resume again at the latest. 48 to 72 hours “.
Mamish cited her “experience with various such rescue operations” and said she knew “every inch of the canal.”
The SCA announced earlier this week that all navigation through the canal would be “temporarily suspended” until the huge Panamanian-flagged container ship MV Ever Given could float again.
The SCA said Thursday after meeting with Dutch salvage firm SMIT, which is helping lead the operation, that about 19,600-26,000 cubic yards of sand had to be moved, reaching a depth of 40 to 50 feet along from the bank of the canal, to evacuate the Embarcacion.
On Wednesday, the SCA allowed 13 ships to enter the northern end of the channel, from the Mediterranean, in the hope that the Ever Given would quickly unblock and the other freighters could continue their voyages. But those boats only made it to a lake in the middle of the canal, and they may not go anywhere quickly.
Egypt is using at least eight large tugs and excavation equipment on the banks of the canal, but so far all efforts to refloat the nearly quarter-mile-long, 247,000-ton container ship have failed.
The SCA said Thursday that an “alternate scenario” was being adopted, with vessels entering the canal from the north on Wednesday “dropping anchor in the Bitter Lakes holding area, until navigation can be fully resumed.”
Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine Corp, which operates the ship on a lease on behalf of the Japanese company that owns it, contracted with the Dutch company Smit Salvage and the Japanese company Nippon Salvage to work with the captain of the ship and the Canal Authority of Suez to find out how to re-float it.
Peter Berdowski, chief executive of the Dutch company Boskalis that owns Smit Salvage, said Thursday that it was still too early to determine how long the work could take.
“We cannot exclude that it could take weeks, depending on the situation,” Berdowski told the Dutch television program “Nieuwsuur”, according to Reuters. Shipping sources told Reuters that if the delays continue, ships could begin to change their route around the southern tip of Africa, adding thousands of miles and about a week to the journey.
The Japanese company that owns Ever Given, Shoei Kisen, told The Associated Press that it was cooperating with local authorities, but “the operation is extremely difficult.”
“We are very sorry to have caused tremendous concern to the ships that are traveling or scheduled to travel in the Suez Canal, and all related individuals,” the company said.
Up to 30% of the world’s container shipping typically passes through the Suez Canal every day, a journey that takes around six hours, representing about 12% of the total merchandise traded globally, according to Reuters. .
The news agency quoted industry consultancy Kpler as saying that while the canal only facilitates the transit of about 4.4% of the world’s total flow of petroleum products, a prolonged disruption could affect supplies to Asia and Europe, and an impact on world oil prices seemed inevitable. .
Meanwhile, the incident, and in particular the fact that a single ship, albeit a very large one, has disrupted world trade, and a photo of the ship’s hull dwarfing a lone bulldozer sent to try to dislodge it, has inspired a great deal. of memes on social media. . CBS’s own “salty” Stephen Colbert even donned a captain’s hat to dissect the maritime disaster on his Wednesday night show.
As the fun continues online, stress levels will undoubtedly continue to rise for both the ship’s owners, who must pay the bill for the salvage operation, and the Egyptian canal authority, which was already suffering a drop in revenue thanks to to the COVID pandemic. .