Two more tugboats ran Sunday to Egypt’s Suez Canal to help efforts to free a skyscraper container ship known for several days across the important waterway, although larger freight forwarders are increasingly diverting their boats for fear the ship may take even longer to release. .
The massive Ever Given, a Japanese-owned ship with a Panama flag that transports cargo between Asia and Europe, got stuck on Tuesday in a single lane stretch of the canal. Meanwhile, authorities have been unable to remove the ship and traffic through the canal – valued at over $ 9 billion a day – has been halted, further disrupting a global shipping network already strained by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Dutch-flagged alpine guard and the Italian-flagged Carlo Magno, who was called in to help tugs that were already there, reached the Red Sea near the city of Suez early on Sunday, satellite data from MarineTraffic.com shows. The tugs will push the 400-meter-long (quarter-mile-long) ever given as dredges continue to suck up sand from the ship and mud caked to its port side, says Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, who manages Ever given.
Workers planned to make two attempts on Sunday to release the ship, which coincides with high tide, says a top pilot with the canal authority.
“Sunday is very critical,” said the pilot. “It will determine the next step, which in all probability means at least partial relief of the ship.”
Taking containers from the ship would probably add even more days to the closure of the canal, something that the authorities have desperately tried to avoid. It would also require a crane and other equipment that has not yet arrived.
The pilot spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to inform journalists.
Strong winds are not the only cause
On Saturday, the head of the Suez Canal Authority told reporters that strong winds were “not the only cause” for Ever given that is sinking and seems to be pushing back against conflicting assessments from others. Lieutenant Colonel Osama Rabei said that an investigation is ongoing but does not rule out human or technical errors.
Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement claims that their “initial investigations rule out mechanical or engine failure as the cause of grounding.” But at least an initial report suggested that a “blackout” struck the hulking ship with about 20,000 containers at the time of the incident.
Rabei said he remained hopeful that dredging could release the ship without having to remove its cargo, but added that “we are in a difficult situation, it is a bad incident.”
Asked when they expected to release the ship and reopen the canal, he said: “I can not say because I do not know.”
On Sunday, he spoke to the Egyptian government television channel Extra News, and Rabei said that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi had ordered the channel authority to prepare for all options, including removing containers from the ship. He said officials had been in talks with the United States about that possibility without elaborating.
Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the company that owns the ship, said it was considering removing containers if other floating efforts failed.
10% of world trade passes through the canal
The Ever given is wedged about 6 kilometers north of the canal entrance to the Red Sea near the city of Suez.
An extended closure of the important waterway would cause delays in the global transport chain. About 19,000 ships passed through the canal last year, according to official figures. About 10% of world trade flows through the canal. The closure could affect oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East. Syria has already begun to ration the distribution of fuel in the war-torn country amid concerns about delays in transports arriving opposite the blockade.
At the beginning of Sunday, more than 320 ships were waiting to travel through Suez, either to the Mediterranean or the Red Sea, according to the channel service company Leth Agencies. Dozens of others still listed their destination as the channel, although senders increasingly seem to avoid the passage.
The world’s largest shipping company, Denmark’s AP Moller-Maersk, warned its customers that it would take anywhere from three to six days to clear the lag of ships by the canal. The company and its partners are already expecting 22 vessels there.
“The current number of redirected Maersk and partner vessels is 14 and is expected to increase when we assess rescue efforts along with network capacity and fuel on our vessels currently on their way to Suez,” the dispatcher said.
Mediterranean Shipping Co., the world’s second largest, said it had already diverted at least eleven ships around Africa’s good hopes to avoid the canal. It returned two other ships and said it expected “some missed sailings as a result of this incident.”
“The MSC expects that this incident will have a very significant impact on the movement of container goods, disrupting supply chains beyond the existing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said.