Essential Egypt tried Thursday to liberate a giant container ship that had blocked shipping on the Suez Canal, an important trade route between Europe and Asia, since the previous day
A crisis in the Suez Canal and the specter of other crises that come to mind, those of 1956 or 1967. But this time, not a warlike or diplomatic inclination … but an unprecedented accident. Egypt is trying to liberate a huge container ship that has been blocking shipping on the Suez Canal, an important trade route between Europe and Asia, since Wednesday. This incident could slow global maritime traffic for days or even weeks.
Also read: VIDEO. Suez Canal: earthed and transversely, a container ship causes a gigantic traffic jam
An incident and weeks of blockages
According to the Dutch company Smit Salvage, which has been hired by the operator of the ship Evergreen Marine Corp, based in Taiwan, to clear the ship, the operation could take “days or even weeks”. Evergreen has appointed teams of experts from Smit Salvage, but also from the Japanese company Nippon Salvage, to come up with a “more effective plan” to rescue the ship. The first experts should arrive yesterday.
“It is, so to speak, a very heavy whale on the beach,” said Peter Berdowski, managing director of Royal Boskalis, the parent company of the Dutch company, on Wednesday evening. Yesterday, the Egyptian Suez Canal Authority (SCA) announced that maritime traffic had been “temporarily suspended” pending the float on Ever Given, the 400-meter vessel blocking the waterway. According to a developing map from the Vesselfinder location, dozens of ships are waiting at both ends of the canal and in the waiting area in the middle of the canal.
Evergreen blocks the Suez Canal
The incident, which occurred overnight Tuesday through Wednesday, resulted in significant delays in the delivery of petroleum and other commercial products. The news sent oil prices up on Wednesday. Several tugs sent by the Suez Canal Authority have been trying to free the giant from the seas since Wednesday morning. Yesterday, a maritime source added that authorities had sent an excavator to the site of the incident.
The Japanese firm Shoei Kisen Kaisha, the owner of the container ship, announced yesterday that it was working with the canal authorities to float again, but that the operation was “extremely difficult”. The blockade should slow shipping for a few days, but experts say the economic impact should be limited if the situation doesn’t drag on. According to Björnar Tonhaugen from Rystad, “the impact (on prices) is likely to be small and temporary”. On the other hand, “if the blockade lasts longer than a few days, it could have a bigger impact on prices and be more sustainable,” he added.
Evergreen blocks the Suez Canal
The Ever Given, a ship weighing more than 220,000 tons that sailed from the Chinese port of Yantian to Rotterdam, ran aground overnight shortly after entering the canal not far from the city of Suez from Tuesday to Wednesday.
The size of the ship, as long as four football fields, makes the clearance work difficult, according to Jean-Marie Miossec, professor at the Paul-Valéry University in Montpellier and specialist in maritime transport.
The crew is safe and sound
“These ships have a considerable draft, especially since they were fully loaded. The water level is weak under the keel, ”he explains and assures that the authorities have to take the time to“ maneuver well ”. “It is also not about weakening the structure of the ship during the maneuvers and balancing the forces to be distributed in the hull,” adds the expert, confirming that “the technical services of the Canal Authority are responsible” for this operation.
According to Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), the Singapore-based company that takes on the technical management of the ship, the 25 crew members are safe and sound. And there was no pollution or damage to the cargo on the ship with a capacity of over 20,000 boxes (TEU or TEU).