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Suez Canal update: Salvage efforts continue

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The head of the Suez Canal Authority said on Saturday 27th, that it remains unclear when the vessel will be refloated. The Ever Given is now blocking the southernmost stretch of the canal, which has a single lane, meaning no other ships can pass.

The Associated Press reports that the country’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi ordered the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) to prepare for all options, including taking some of the 18,300 containers off the 1300-foot long Ever Given.

Evergreen provided the following update to EVER GIVEN’s status in the Suez Canal:

As of March 28th, the dredging operation underway has succeeded in loosening the EVER GIVEN’s bow within the bank of the Suez Canal and the ship’s stern has been cleared from the sand bank. The rudder and propeller of the vessel are fully functional and expected to provide additional support to tugboats assigned to move the container ship from the accident site so that normal transit may again resume within the canal. The rescue team is continuing the dredging efforts and will resume attempts to refloat the vessel at 14:00 local time in Egypt (20:00 Taipei time).

Dredgers working to dislodge the stranded vessel have so far shifted 27,000 tonnes of sand to a depth of 60 feet, Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie, Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority said. 12 tug boats performed pulling maneuvers from three different directions, Saturday 27th,  to unlodge the ship while two additional tugboats have been added to the mission, Sunday 28th. Fuel, ballast water, and several containers were removed from the ship to help lighten it as heavy machinery, including an excavator, worked to dig the bow out.

On 27 March, the SCA said that 14 tugboats were trying to take advantage of that day’s high tide and that more would arrive the following day if the latest attempt failed.  By 5:00 PM GMT, according to Egypt Today, the ship had moved by 30 meters (100 feet) towards the north.

A video posted οn Twitter on Saturday shows tugboats in the Suez Canal honking in celebration after they were able to slightly move the massive container ship that is roughly the same length as the Empire State Building.

Suez Canal is one of the world’s busiest waterways and the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia. The suspension of traffic through the vital waterway due to Ever Given grounding has disrupted world trade, which has already been plagued by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), the ship was unable to keep a straight trajectory due to high winds and a sand storm that reduced visibility. At the time of the incident, on March 23rd, stormy weather was buffeting Egypt, forcing the closure of several Mediterranean and Red Sea ports.

Initial investigation suggests that the vessel ran aground due to strong wind however, ongoing investigation could not rule out human or technical error, the head of Canal commented.  There have been no reports of pollution or cargo damage.

On March 24, the Suez Canal Authority allowed a convoy of ships to enter the canal from its northern end at Port Said, but the vessels dropped anchor in the Great Bitter Lake nearly 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of the container ship, Reuters reported. Shipping companies are questioning whether they should decide to prefer divert their vessels to sail around the southern tip of Africa. However, this is not an easy decision, since it could be a very expensive option adding several days to the journey time.

As of 27 March, more than 300 ships are delayed at both ends and in the middle of the canal, with many more still approaching or having altered their paths.

Three main waiting areas have been shaped in the Suez Canal since the Ever Given incident on Tuesday, as vessels are waiting to resume their voyages through the Canal, MarineTraffic said.

Delays in shipping may persist after the Ever Given is freed from its current predicament, as vessels may face busy ports and additional delays before offloading.


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