CAIRO (Reuters) – Europe’s shortest sea route to Asia remained blocked on Wednesday as 10 tugs struggled to free one of the world’s largest container ships after it ran aground in the Suez Canal.
The 400-meter, 224,000-ton Ever Given ran aground Tuesday morning after losing the ability to drive amid high winds and a dust storm, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said in a statement.
Approximately 30% of global container shipping volumes pass through the canal each day, transporting everything from fuel to consumer goods. The main alternative route for ships traveling between Asia and Europe, around Cape Africa, takes an extra week to navigate.
GAC, a Dubai-based maritime services company, said authorities were still working to free the ship as of mid-afternoon Wednesday, and that information it had previously received claiming the ship was partially refloated was inaccurate.
Images released by the SCA appeared to show the ship positioned diagonally across the canal, blocking its entire width, as tugs attempted to dislodge it. The photos showed an excavator removing dirt and rocks from the canal bank around the bow of the ship.
An official said work to free the ship could continue into the evening, weather permitting.
The SCA president told local media that despite the blockade, a southbound convoy was on the move and that the authority was trying to keep traffic flowing between the holding areas as best it could while rescue efforts continued. .
“Once we get this boat out, that’s it, things will go back to normal. God willing, we will finish today, ”said President Osama Rabie. The authority was considering compensation for the delayed ships, he said.
About 12% of world trade by volume passes through the canal, and it is a major source of hard currency for Egypt, generating $ 5.6 billion in 2020.
Tracking maps had shown that the ship was stranded on the southernmost stretch of the waterway, between the Great Bitter Lake and the port of Suez on the Red Sea.
At least 30 ships were blocked north of Ever Given, and three to the south, local sources said. Several dozen ships could also be seen clustered around the canal’s north and south entrances.
The SCA said it was trying to rebalance the ship, and local sources said efforts could shift toward excavating the ship if the tugs are unable to free it.
Dutch maritime services company Boskalis said its subsidiary Smit Salvage had been hired to help with the operation and was sending 10 people to Egypt.
In such cases, “you really have to do the math to understand how solidly it (is) grounded and how much power you can wield without damaging the vessel,” Boskalis spokesman Martijn Schuttevaer told Reuters.
Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), the ship’s technical manager, said the Ever Given ran aground in the canal around 05:40 GMT on Tuesday. He said an investigation was underway.
BSM said the crew was safe and there were no reports of contamination. A BSM spokesperson said the vessel was owned by Japan’s Shoei Kisen KK and declined to provide further details. Shoei Kisen KK could not be reached for comment.
Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine Corp, which rents the boat, said the owner had told it that the boat “was suspected of having been hit by a sudden strong wind, causing the hull to drift off (the) waterway and hit accidentally the bottom “.
The ship is likely to have been insured for $ 100-140 million, insurance brokers say.
Dozens of ships carrying crude liquefied natural gas (LNG) and retail products were unable to navigate the canal on Wednesday, potentially disrupting supply to global markets, shipping sources said.
Oil analysis firm Vortexa said 10 tankers carrying 13 million barrels of crude could be affected. Oil prices rose more than 2%. [O/R]
As of Wednesday, five laden LNG tankers were unable to pass through the canal due to the container ship ashore, according to data intelligence firm Kpler.
Of the five, three were destined for Asia and two for Europe, said Kpler analyst Rebecca Chia. He said that if the congestion persists until the end of this week, it would affect the transit of 15 LNG tankers.
During 2020, nearly 19,000 ships, or an average of 51.5 per day, passed through the canal, according to the SCA.
If the Ever Given remained stagnant for up to 48 hours, “the impact will be limited to a gradual worsening of the already very severe ship delays,” said Niels Madsen, vice president of product and operations at Denmark-based Sea-Intelligence.
“If, on the other hand, the Suez Canal remains blocked for another 3-5 days, then this will start to have very serious global ramifications,” he said.
Reporting by Yusri Mohamed in Ismailia, Egypt, and Jessica Jaganathan, Florence Tan, Roslan Khasawneh, Gavin Maguire, and Koustav Samanta in Singapore, Yimou Lee in Taipei, and Yuka Obayashi in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Carolyn Cohn and Jonathan Saul in London, Mahmoud Mourad in Cairo, Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Written by Aidan Lewis; Edited by Tom Hogue, Jan Harvey and Mark Potter