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Update on Suez Canal crisis 6 days after the grounding of Ever Given

Ever Given - Shipping and Freight Resource - Suez CanalFrom time to time the maritime industry trends in the news media not just within the media outlets in the industry but in the mainstream media as well.

More often than not, this is usually for the wrong reasons such as maritime disasters.

One such maritime disaster is playing out in the Suez Canal as the Ever Given, a 400m long container ship owned by Japanese owners Shoei Kisen Kaisha, operated by Taiwanese shipping line Evergreen Marine, managed technically by German’s Bernard Schulte, registered in Panama, crewed by Indians and insured by UK P&I Club, is still wedged diagonally across the 225m canal from the 23rd of March 2021.

Operations to free the vessel has been carrying on since the 23rd of March while around 360+ ships of various sizes carrying various cargoes are lined up on either side of the canal waiting to cross from Asia to Europe or from Europe to Asia. 40-50 ships are said to be arriving on a daily basis awaiting the passage.

Some of the ships that could not wait any longer or wanted to avoid the queue have already turned around and have taken the long route around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope which is said to add between 5-10 days depending on the size, speed and type of ship.

As per Ahmed Bashir, Head of Global Execution in Maersk Line, the world’s largest container shipping line, they have already diverted 15 vessels away from the Suez Canal via the Cape of Good Hope.

Update on the progress of freeing Ever Given

As of the 28th of March 2021, the update is that the 14 odd tugboats which have been working on freeing the ship have reportedly managed to move the Ever Given 30º degrees in both directions, but it is not yet enough for the ship to dislodge itself from the bank.

Announcing the good news on Egyptian State TV, Admiral Osama Rabie, Chairman and Managing Director of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said, “There are positive indicators from yesterday and the day before yesterday. The rudder was not moving and it is now moving, the propeller is working now, there was no water underneath the bow, and now there is water under it, and yesterday there was a 4-metre deviation in the bow and the stern.

However, while this good news comes one side, Reuters is quoting SCA officials of a mass of rock that has been found at the bow of the ship, complicating salvage efforts.

Also, while initially it was reported that the ship ran aground due to visibility affected by heavy winds and a sandstorm, as per Gen Rabie weather conditions there may have been technical or human errors in the grounding and not just the weather.. However, he has also advised that all of these factors will become apparent in the investigation to follow.

In the meantime, although dredgers working to dislodge the ship are reported to have shifted around 27,000 cbm of sand to a depth of 18m it is still not clear of the type of sand that the ship was stuck under, whether it was soft sand, compact sand or clay. It is reported that around 20,000 cbm of sand would need to removed from the canal according to the canal authorities.

This information is important to determine how easily it may shift free as the dredging is expected to carry on around the clock.

As per SCA officials, they have divided the day into 2 x 12 hours shifts with 12 hours for dredgers and 12 hours for tugs trying to pull and dislodge the ship. Two more tugs are expected to arrive on Monday which will help the operations further as these two tugs are expected to have more horse power.

The SCA is also considering alternative arrangements including preparations to offload some of the containers from the ship to lighten the ship on the back of an order reportedly given by the President of Egypt Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

As per this order, arrangements are being considered to transfer some of the 18,300 containers on board to another vessel or the bank of the canal but it is easier said than ordered because of the requirement of floating cranes or cranes with a long reach to reach the height and width of the Ever Given which is one of the largest container ships in the world with a capacity of 20,000 TEUs.

Also, any such operation to lighten the ship’s load is not expected to start before Monday the 29th March as per the SCA, as salvage teams are trying to use the high tides to their advantage before it recedes next week.

Stay tuned for more information as the situation develops.


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