The “Ever Given” has already moved, which gives hope to the helpers at the Suez Canal. 14 tugs are now in use, but the giant container may have to be unloaded.
In the Suez Canal, the authorities are now starting preparations for unloading containers on board the stuck “Ever Given”. That was ordered by President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, said the head of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), Osama Rabie. Recovery experts had hoped to get the 400-meter-long giant container afloat again without the time-consuming step.
An attempt to lift hundreds of containers from the ship with a crane, for example, and thus reduce its load, would take days or even weeks. It would be a logistical challenge to unload the large-capacity containers, which weigh tons, from a height of almost 60 meters in the middle of the desert and without the infrastructure of a port. The “Ever Given” can transport up to 18,000 containers.
Dredgers are supposed to dig for twelve hours to free the transverse ship. Then the tugs should be used for twelve hours, said Rabie. Meanwhile its 14 of the special ships in use on the 220,000 ton ship. It went off course in a sandstorm on Tuesday and ran aground near the banks of the canal. Since then it has blocked the waterway between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, and all ships in it cannot continue.
Care for 130,000 sheep on freighters
Most recently, over 320 ships with cargo worth billions of dollars were stowed on both sides of the canal. Every day the Suez Canal remains blocked, according to a report by the insurer Allianz, world trade costs between six and ten billion dollars. According to the canal authority SCA, Egypt loses between $ 12 million and $ 14 million per day of closure.
The first concrete effects are already being felt: Syria said on Saturday that it had started rationing the fuel supply in response to a lack of oil delivery. Animal rights activists, meanwhile, are concerned about the fate of 130,000 sheep on board eleven Romanian freighters.
Mail order company Otto is waiting for goods
German companies also fear delivery bottlenecks. A spokesman for mail order company Otto told the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung” that “a number of containers” with goods were registered on the waiting ships from the Far East to Europe.
Authority chief Rabie hopes that the “Ever Given” can be made afloat again by Sunday night. Thanks to the 27,000 cubic meters of sand removed from under the bow and with the help of the tugs, the ship “moved 30 degrees to the left and right for the first time late on Saturday,” he said on Egyptian television.
According to the owner, “Ever Given” is not damaged
The head of the Japanese ship owner Shoei Kisen, Yukito Higaki, was also optimistic. There are no problems with steering and propulsion, he said on Friday: “As soon as the ship moves again, it should be operational.”
Regardless of the optimistic tones, several major shipping companies such as Maersk and the German Hapag-Lloyd are planning to switch to the much longer route via the Cape of Good Hope. The French shipping company CMA CGM also announced that it would divert two of its ships via the Cape of Good Hope. Other possibilities of transporting the cargo by air or rail “via the Silk Road” are currently being examined.
Authorities do not rule out human error
In view of the ongoing blockade, the US Army offered its support. Talks have already been held with the Egyptian authorities, said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki. A team of experts from the US Navy could quickly be dispatched to the Suez Canal – a central task of the Central Command responsible for the Middle East is to protect the merchant ships in the region.
The head of the canal operator has now ruled out that the sandstorm alone was responsible for the accident. Technical problems or human error may also have contributed.