Stranded for 3 days so far: why it is so hard to free the ship blocking Suez Canal



Thu, 25 Mar 2021 - 07:05 GMT


Thu, 25 Mar 2021 - 07:05 GMT

Container Ship 'Ever Given' stuck in the Suez Canal, Egypt - March 24th, 2021 – Flickr/Pierre Markuse

Container Ship 'Ever Given' stuck in the Suez Canal, Egypt - March 24th, 2021 – Flickr/Pierre Markuse

CAIRO – 25 March 2021: Since Tuesday, Egyptian authorities in cooperation with foreign experience and assistance have been trying to free a giant container ship with a super heavy load.

An expert thinks the operation to release the ship, belonging to Evergreen and sailing under a Panama flag, may take up to weeks to succeed eventually due to the massive size of the ship.

The Ever Given ship, 400 meters long, 59 meters wide, and with a capacity of 224,000 tons ran aground due to bad weather and sandstorm and wedged diagonally across the canal.

"It is like an enormous beached whale. It's an enormous weight on the sand,” Peter Berdowski, CEO of the Boskalis dredging and heavylift company said.

The Dutch company is trying to free the ship.

In remarks to the Dutch television programme "Nieuwsuur,” Berdowski said the company may work on reducing the weight of the ship through unloading containers, oil and water from the ship.

This is besides efforts by the tug boats and dredging of sand obstructing the vessel from moving, Berdowski added.

Berdowski noted that the operation may take weeks.

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Workers are seen next to a container ship which was hit by strong wind and ran aground in Suez Canal, Egypt March 24, 2021 – Reuters

Dozens of ships, and the number is increasing, have been unable to pass through the internationally significant 193-kilometer waterway on the northbound and southbound directions.

Around 30% of the world’s shipping container volume passes through the Suez Canal per day, according to Reuters, and about 12% of total global trade of all goods.

The Dutch firm SMIT Salvage BV has been one of the companies hired by Ever Given's owner to help release the giant ship. SMIT hailed the efforts the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) took to release the ship.

This came during a meeting of the Dutch company’s working team and the SCA's Crisis Management Committee to discuss ways to free the ship.

The SCA says, currently, two dredges that belong to the authority is doing dredging work around the ship. The SCA also says it works on removing sand blocking the ship from moving through four diggers.

Also, nine giant tugboats have been used to try to tow the ship.

SCA 3Baraka 1, one of nine tug boats deployed to try to free the giant ship - Reuters

Chairman of Suez Canal Osama Rabie said that sailing in the international waterway will be allowed for a whole day once the ship floats in order to make it up for ships whose crossing got delayed.

Sailing in Suez Canal is temporarily suspended on Thursday after 13 ships were allowed to cross within the fleet heading from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea.

The Suez Canal was inaugurated in 1869 and a parallel extension was opened by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in 2015.

Almost 19,000 ships passed through the canal in both directions in 2020.


As dozens of ships have been left delayed behind the stranded ships and damage has occurred to the ship and the probably to the canal, questions were raised about which party would be responsible for the compensation.

Mohamed Mahran, vice chairman of Allianz Egypt, told Al-Arabiya that the SCA usually asks for a compensation from the ship owner in such incidents.

He added that the ship owner will likely ask for the compensation from the insurance company responsible for the ship, which is UK P&I Club.

Mahran said the SCA authorities will likely not pay compensation in such case as it has no obligation to pay compensation for the ships harmed while passing through it.

Reuters contributed to the reporting.



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