The cargo ship was still over the Suez Canal and had nowhere to go for “weeks”.
Cairo – Maritime transport through theon Thursday for the third time in a row, with dozens of ships stuck at both the north and south entrances on the shortest route between Asia and Africa. One of the largest cargo ships in the world turned sideways and got stuck across the narrow channel on Tuesday. One of the teams in charge of relocating the ship said it could take weeks for the cargo to move again.
The Egyptian Suez Canal Authority (SCA) announced that shipping through the canal has been “temporarily suspended” until the Panamanian-flagged container ship MV Ever Given can swim again.
On Wednesday, the SCA allowed 13 ships to enter the northern end of the canal from the Mediterranean in the hope that the Ever Given would not get stuck quickly and the other cargo ships could continue their voyage. But these ships have only made it to a lake in the middle of the canal, and they may not go anywhere fast.
Egypt is using eight large tugs and excavation equipment on the banks of the canal, but so far all efforts to get the nearly quarter-mile long, 247,000-ton container ship afloat again have failed.
The SCA announced on Thursday that an “alternative scenario” had been adopted in which the ships entering the canal from the north on Wednesday “anchored in the waiting area of the Bitter Lakes until navigation can be fully resumed” .
Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine Corp, which operates the ship on behalf of the Japanese company that owns it, has hired Dutch company Smit Salvage and Japanese company Nippon Salvage to work with the ship’s captain and the Suez Canal Authority to figure out how to do this do is float it again.
Peter Berdowski, CEO of the Dutch company Boskalis, which owns Smit Salvage, said Thursday it was too early to tell how long the job could be.
“We cannot rule out that it may take weeks, depending on the situation,” said Berdowski to the Dutch television program “Nieuwsuur”, according to Reuters. According to shipping sources, if delays persist, ships could potentially reroute around the southern tip of Africa, adding thousands of kilometers and about a week to the journey.
The Japanese company that owns Ever Given, Shoei Kisen, told The Associated Press that it is working with local authorities but “the operation is extremely difficult”.
“We are very sorry that we are causing enormous concern to the ships sailing or planned in the Suez Canal and all relatives,” the company said.
According to Reuters, 30% of global container freight typically passes through the Suez Canal every day – a journey that takes about six hours – which is around 12% of all goods traded worldwide.
The news agency quoted the industry consultancy Kpler as saying that while the canal only facilitates the transit of about 4.4% of the world’s total flow of oil products, a prolonged interruption could affect supplies to Asia and Europe.
Meanwhile, the incident – and especially the fact that a single, albeit very large, ship disrupted world trade and a photo of the hull dwarfing a lone dredger sent to remove it – has inspired a wealth of memes on social media. CBS ‘own “salty” Stephen Colbert even put on a captain’s hat on his show on Wednesday night to analyze the maritime disaster.
As the fun continues online, the stress will undoubtedly continue to increase for both the shipowners who have to pay the bill for the salvage operation and the Egyptian Canal Authority, which has already suffered a decline in sales due to the COVID pandemic.