Megaship blocking of the Suez Canal on the fifth day could be repelled using tides

The company that owns the giant container ship that has been stuck sideways across the Suez Canal said that an attempt will be made to return the ship by taking advantage of tidal movements later Saturday.

The Ever Given, owned by the Japanese company Shoei Kisen KK, was wedged on Tuesday in a narrow stretch of canal, about 6 kilometers north of the southern entrance, near the city of Suez.

At a news conference Friday night at the company’s headquarters in Imabari, western Japan, Shoei Kisen’s President Yukito Higaki said 10 tugs were deployed and workers dredged the banks and seabed near the ship’s arch to try to get it floating again when high tide begins to flow.

“We apologize for blocking the traffic and causing the huge problems and concerns for many people, including the parties involved,” he said.

Shoei Kisen said in a statement on Saturday that the company has considered removing its containers to get the weight off the ship, but it is a very difficult operation, physically. The company said it could still consider that option if ongoing refloating efforts fail.

A team from Boskalis, a Dutch company specializing in salvage, worked with the canal authority using tugs and a specialized suction mud at the port side of the cargo ship’s bow. Egyptian authorities have banned media access to the site.

“It is a complex technical operation” that will require several attempts to liberate the ship, said Lieutenant General Osama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority, in a statement.

Attempts earlier on Friday to free it failed, says Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, technical director of Ever given.

Biden offers help

The Suez Canal Authority has said it welcomes international aid. The White House said it had offered to help Egypt reopen the canal. “We have equipment and capabilities that most countries do not have and we see what we can do and what help we can be,” US President Joe Biden told reporters.

An initial investigation showed that the ship ran aground due to strong winds and rules out mechanical or motor failure, the company says. GAC, a global shipping and logistics company, had previously said that the ship had experienced a power outage, but it was not prepared.

Bernhard Schulte said that two canal pilots had been on board when the ship got stuck. Such an arrangement is common, but the ship’s captain retains the ultimate authority over the ship, according to experts.

A traffic jam at sea grew to more than 200 vessels on Friday off the Suez Canal and some vessels began to change course. More than 100 ships were still on their way to the waterway, according to the computer company Refinitiv.

Apparently expected long delays, the owners of the fixed vessel diverted a sister ship, Ever Greet, to instead get around Africa, according to satellite data.

Others are also distracted. The liquefied natural gas company Pan Americas changed course in the middle of the Atlantic and now aimed south to go around the southern tip of Africa, according to satellite data from MarineTraffic.com.

About 10% of world trade flows through the canal, which is especially important for oil transportation. The closure could also affect oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East.

The oil markets are absorbing the disturbance for now, said analyst Toril Bosoni.

“Oil inventories have declined but are still relatively large,” she told the Associated Press, adding that she believes the effects may be more pronounced in the tanker sector than in the oil industry.

“We are not losing oil supplies but it will bind tankers longer if they have to go around,” the tip of Africa, she said, which is about another two weeks’ journey.

At the White House, Secretary of State Jen Psaki said that the United States sees “some potential effects on energy markets from the role of the Suez Canal as an important two-way transit route for oil … We will continue to monitor market conditions and respond appropriately if necessary. is something we follow closely. ”

International companies are preparing for the effect that the channel’s blockage will have on supply chains that depend on precise deliveries of goods. Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said the country’s port should expect disruption.

“Should that happen, some will take advantage of stocks becoming necessary,” he said on Facebook.

European ports stressed

The lagging of ships could highlight European ports and the international delivery of containers, which are already strained by the coronavirus pandemic, according to IHS Markit, a business research group. It is said that 49 container vessels were planned to pass through the canal that week since Ever Given was lodged.

The delay could also lead to large insurance claims from companies, according to Marcus Baker, global head of Marine & Cargo at insurance broker Marsh, with a ship that Ever Given usually covered between $ 100 and $ 200 million.

Captain Nick Sloane, a maritime salvage expert who led the noted effort to rescue the Costa Concordia 2012 cruise ship, told the Associated Press that it could take up to a week at best to release the cargo ship and warned of structural problems on the ship as it remains stuck. That’s if dredging works. If it does not, he estimated that an operation that involved removing the ship’s cargo could take weeks, as it would require 300 barges to transport the ship about 20,000 containers.

Satellite and photos distributed by the canal authority show that Ever Given’s arch touches the eastern wall, while the stern appeared to be inlaid against the western wall.

The Ever Given was involved in an accident in northern Germany in 2019, when it encountered a small ferry moored on the river Elbe in Hamburg. No passengers were on the ferry at that time and there were no injuries, but it was seriously injured.

Hamburg prosecutors launched an investigation into Ever Givens’ captain and pilot, suspected of endangering shipping, but released it in 2020 due to lack of evidence, spokeswoman Liddy Oechtering told the Associated Press.

Oechtering could not say what the investigation had determined the cause of the crash, but officials at the time suggested that strong winds may have blown the slow-moving vessel into the ferry.

(AP)