Suez Canal: to free container ships, authorities must remove up to 706,000 cubic feet of sand



“Another attempt to get the ship afloat earlier today … was unsuccessful,” Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) said in a statement, adding that more equipment should be brought in to support the efforts additional. The US Navy is also planning to send aid this weekend.

The Ever Given, a container ship almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall, ran aground in the Egyptian Channel on Tuesday after being caught in 40-knot winds and a sandstorm that caused low visibility and poor navigation.

It blocked one of the world’s busiest and most important waterways, sparking frantic rescue efforts, including the use of two dredges, nine tugs and four excavators, and increasing traffic congestion at either end of the canal.

“The focus is now on dredging to remove sand and mud from the port side of the bow of the ship,” BSM said, adding that a special suction dredge will be used to move 2000 cubic meters of sand and mud around the ship every hour.

Large capacity pumps can also be used to reduce water levels around parts of the 224,000 ton vessel, which is 400 meters (1,312 feet) long and 59 meters (193 feet) wide.

Up to 20,000 cubic meters (706,000 cubic feet) of sand in the The canal must be removed to free the gigantic container ship, according to the canal authorities.

The dredgers are working hard to remove sand and mud from the bow of the ship – and they will need to move between 15,000 and 20,000 cubic meters (530,000 to 706,000 cubic feet) of sand to reach a depth of 12 to 16 meters ( 39 to 52 feet), which could allow the vessel to float, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said Thursday. It’s about eight times the size of an Olympic size swimming pool.

An excavator attempts to free the front end of Ever Given.

The US Navy in the Middle East plans to send an assessment team of dredging experts to the site as early as Saturday, according to two defense officials.

The move comes after the Egyptian government agreed to accept an offer of assistance relayed by the United States Embassy in Cairo.

“The Biden administration is closely monitoring the situation,” a US official told CNN on Friday.

“As part of our active dialogue with Egypt, we have offered US assistance to the Egyptian authorities to help them reopen the canal. We are consulting our Egyptian partners on how best to support their efforts.”

The US military often sends disaster assessment teams overseas to provide technical expertise on request. There is no indication yet of further assistance beyond the team going to Egypt.

The Ever Given is owned by the Japanese shipping company Shoei Kisen KK. The ship’s owners hope to get the ship back afloat by Saturday night Japanese time (Saturday morning ET), contrary to the belief of shipping experts that it would take days or even weeks to free the boat.

“The goal is to get the container afloat on Saturday evening local time,” Toshiaki Fujiwara, senior general manager of the company, told CNN on Friday.

The crisis can lead to many legal claims.

Discussing possible damages claims, Fujiwara said that “the company has not received any claims at this point,” adding that “it may take a while. [to] two or more years to come up with these details. “

Evergreen Marine, a Taiwanese company that operates the vessel, claimed Shoei Kisen KK was responsible for the crash, Fujiwara confirmed.

Shipping experts remain concerned about the situation, with a CEO of a rescue company saying the ship was “stuck in the solidity of the rock”.

“Fortunately, the ship is in good condition, in good condition, so this is an important basic condition,” Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, told Dutch television on Thursday. “But the first impression is also that he has remained solid as a rock.”

Boskalis’ sister company, Smit Salvage, is one of the companies striving to unleash Ever Given.

The SCA’s main channel pilot told CNN on Wednesday that the re-float of the huge ship was “technically very complicated” and could take days.

A team of expert rescuers from Dutch Smit Salvage and Japan’s Nippon Salvage, who have worked on several high-level operations in the past, have been appointed to help the SCA get the vessel back afloat, charter company Evergreen Marine said. in a press release.

But every day that passes is costing companies and countries whose trade has been blocked by the impasse. About 12% of world trade volume passes through the Suez Canal, and it typically handles around $ 10 billion a day in freight.

Blocked vessels

More than 18,800 ships with a net tonnage of 1.17 billion tonnes passed through the canal in 2020. This represents an average of 51.5 ships per day.

At least 160 ships carrying vital fuel and cargo are now waiting to cross the stranded waterway, according to an SCA main channel pilot. Some ships decide to divert their voyage around Cape Horn to avoid blockage of the Suez Canal – but they face an additional 3,800 miles and up to 12 days of additional navigation time, according to the International Chamber of Navigation.

A new catamaran from Norwegian ferry and freight company Fjord Line is among the stranded vessels.

“We are anchoring outside Suez and just waiting to cross the canal,” a spokesperson for Fjord Line told CNN.

The catamaran was “going home to Norway and Denmark. Suddenly, everything stopped, ”added the spokesperson. Eleven people from the firm are on board.

“It’s a bit boring of course, but they’re doing fine,” the spokesperson said. “They have water, they have food. The weather is nice.”

Ships prevented from crossing the Suez Canal wait in the Great Bitter Lake on Thursday, March 25.

At least 10 ships, including tankers and LNG carriers and container ships, have turned away from the channel, according to maritime intelligence and data firm Kpler.

“There are already several ships … bypassing [the route from the Mediterranean into the canal] and now we are heading south … now is the right time to make that decision, ”said Lars Jensen, director of Sea Intelligence Consulting, a shipping industry consulting firm.

“So for now it will appear that the ships lining up [in the canal], would simply cross [their] fingers and hope this will be resolved, ”he added.

The situation is expected to worsen over the weekend, with more than 100 vessels scheduled to join the vessels waiting on the waterway, bringing the total stranded to more than 300 vessels, financial data provider Refinitiv said.

“Not only will goods on board Ever Given be seriously delayed in their journey, but hundreds of other ships will also be affected. The damage to the global supply chain will be significant,” said Secretary General of ICS, Guy Platten.

Experts fear that if the ship is not released soon, the congestion could impact the oil market, shipping and container rates, causing the cost of everyday goods to rise.

“The majority of trade between Asia and Europe still relies on the Suez Canal, and given that vital goods, including vital medical equipment and PPE, pass through these ships, we call on the Egyptian authorities to take care of everything. implement to reopen the canal as soon as possible, ”Platten said.

Raphael Bostic, chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, said on Friday that the delays could cause commodity prices to temporarily spike.

“If this were to last for weeks and weeks, I think you could actually see some pretty significant disruption in the delivery of the goods,” Bostic told CNN Business, while adding that the blockage should not last that long.

“We can see temporary peaks, but they will only be temporary,” he added.

“I have no doubts that we will get back to more balanced prices as quickly as possible. I don’t think this will be a lasting problem.”

This is not the first time that the canal, which opened in 1869, has faced a shutdown. It had to close between 1956 and 1957 due to the Suez Crisis, also known as the Second Arab-Israeli War. It closed again in 1967, when Israel occupied the Sinai Peninsula, and did not reopen until 1975.
This satellite image, taken on March 25, shows the Suez Canal blocked by the ship Ever Given after running aground.

But the current shutdown may have a much bigger and more disruptive impact than the last two closures, as the level of trade between Europe and Asia has increased dramatically in the decades since.

“The size of shipping has become so large that it is very difficult for the Egyptian authorities to keep up with the growth,” CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman said on Thursday. “The size of the Suez Canal over the past 50 years, the width of it, has practically doubled and it is clear that it is still not big enough.”

CNN’s Hamdi Alkhshali, Mostafa Salem and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.


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