Workers will unload an unknown number of the 18,000 containers aboard the skyscraper-sized ship that sits on the side of the Suez Canal to ease it and remove it from one of the busiest shipping routes in the world.
Preparations for the removal have been ordered, according to Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi News reports Sunday.
The 200,000-ton Ever Given – nearly a quarter of a mile long – created a shipper’s nightmare and caught the public’s imagination when it blocked the canal on Tuesday. As of Sunday, it caused a traffic jam of more than 300 ships and costs billions in late deliveries.
Officials had hoped to free the ship by dredging tons of sand and using tugs to clear it at high tide, but efforts failed on Friday and Saturday. USA TODAY reported that 13 tugs are on the construction site.
The bow of the ship is on the east bank and the stern on the west bank. That means it sags in the middle and puts more strain on the trunk, which is made worse by changing tides. Officials say the hull is being examined for cracks.
How big is the one ever given?USA TODAY
While tugs and excavators continue to work, special cranes and equipment are brought to the porter. The containers are transferred to another ship or the canal bank, which can take a few days.
How did it happen?
Ever Given is stuck near the Egyptian city of Suez, about 3 miles north of the southern entrance to the canal. It’s in a single track section of the canal, about 985 feet wide.
The owners originally said that in a sandstorm, high winds pushed the ship to one side and wedged it into both banks of the waterway. Containers stacked on deck may have acted as sails.
However, the chairman of the Egyptian Suez Canal Authority said on Saturday, without giving details, that weather conditions “were not the main reasons” for the grounding and that “there may have been technical or human reasons,” according to the BBC reported. An investigation is still ongoing.
How many ships are waiting?
At the northern and southern entrances of the canal, there are at least 300 ships waiting to transport everything from cars to oil and grain. The AP said an analysis by the data firm Refinitiv found an additional 300 ships were en route to the canal in the next two weeks. Some ships have already been diverted to the African route.
CNN said the U.S. Navy offered dredging experts for assistance.
Authorities initially disagreed on how long the canal will be blocked. Ship owner Shoei Kisen said his goal was free the ship on the night of March 27th.
An Egyptian presidential adviser told Agence France Presse on March 26 that traffic within the company would be resumed 48 to 72 hours. However, the CEO of an excavator company has announced the operation could take weeks.
Uncertainty has forced some shippers to change course and take the longer, alternative route around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, adding weeks to their destinations and increasing fear of piracy. Some have contacted the US Navy on increased security.
Officials are under great pressure to remove the ship.
The canal is a 120 mile shipping link between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, carrying 10% to 12% of merchant shipping and about 2.5% of the world’s oil. A German insurer said delays could cost world trade $ 6-10 billion a week, Reuters reported.
USA TODAY said blocking could worsen shipping delays and Cause bottlenecks of toilet paper, coffee and other goods.
GlobalSecurity.org calls the channel “strategically and economically one of the main waterways in the world.”
Who Owns the Channel?
The Suez Canal is operated by Egypt through its state Suez Canal Authority. Canal revenues for Egypt were $ 5.6 billion in 2020 according to Arab News. On average, around 50 ships pass through the canal every day.
It opened in 1869. It is a sea level canal with no locks that connects large bodies of water at different heights. It usually takes a ship 13 to 15 hours to get from one end to the other. It has expanded over the years, with the newest project in 2015 priced at $ 8 billion.
The Ever Given, marked under Panama, was built in 2018 and is operated by Evergreen Marine from Taiwan. According to Reuters, it can move 20,000 20-foot containers and move cargo between Asia and Europe. It has a crew of 25.
The 1,312 foot ship is often compared to that Empire State Building, which is 1,454 feet tall including the tower and antenna.
As the authorities strive to free the ship, the world looks on expectantly. Despite the severe impact of the congestion, some on social media have shed light on the situation, including a popular comic and a Parody account for an excavator in the center of the action.
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CONTRIBUTION: Janie Haseman, Mitchell Thorson, John Bacon, Karina Zaiets, Dian Zhang, Brenna Smith, Jim Sergent and Javier Zarracina.
SOURCE USA TODAY Network Reporting and Research; Associated Press; GlobalSecurity.org; Agence France Presse; Suez Canal Authority
Published 9:50 p.m. UTC March 26, 2021
Updated at 8:17 p.m. UTC March 28, 2021