Economy

Cargo Ship Blocking Suez Canal Could Take Weeks to Move

Suez Canal Authority | Reuters
  • The massive container ship that ran aground in the Suez Canal, halting traffic in one of the world's busiest waterways, is still stuck.
  • The ship, called the Ever Given, became horizontally wedged in the waterway following heavy winds.
  • Nearly 19,000 ships passed through the canal during 2020, for an average of 51.5 per day, according to the Suez Canal Authority.

The massive container ship that ran aground in the Suez Canal, halting traffic in one of the world's busiest waterways, is still stuck as tug boats continued to try to dislodge the ship on Thursday. A team of expert salvors from Smit Salvage have been called in to assist with the operation.

The ship, called the Ever Given, became horizontally wedged in the waterway following heavy winds. Multiple tugboats were sent to the scene to assist in the re-float operation, which could take days or even longer.

"We can't exclude it might take weeks, depending on the situation," said Peter Berdowski, CEO of Dutch company Boskalis. Berdowski, whose company is helping in the salvage efforts, made the comments on Dutch television, according to Reuters.

At 8:30 a.m. ET Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, which is the technical manager of the vessel, said an earlier attempt to re-float the vessel had failed, and that another re-float attempt would be made later on Thursday.

"Dredging operations to assist refloating the vessel continue. In addition to the dredgers already on site a specialised suction dredger has arrived at the location," the firm said.

The enormous cargo carrier is more than 1,300 feet long and about 193 feet wide. It weighs more than 200,000 tons. One end of the ship was wedged into one side of the canal, with the other stretching nearly to the other bank.

In this photo released by the Suez Canal Authority, a cargo ship, named the Ever Given, sits with its bow stuck into the wall Wednesday, March 24, 2021, after it turned sideways in Egypt's Suez Canal, blocking traffic in a crucial East-West waterway for global shipping.
Suez Canal Authority | AP
In this photo released by the Suez Canal Authority, a cargo ship, named the Ever Given, sits with its bow stuck into the wall Wednesday, March 24, 2021, after it turned sideways in Egypt's Suez Canal, blocking traffic in a crucial East-West waterway for global shipping.

The 120-mile long man-made waterway is a key point of global trade, connecting a steady flow of goods from East to West.

"Dredgers are working to clear sand and mud from around the vessel to free her. Tugboats in conjunction with Ever Given's winches are working to shift the vessel," Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement said Wednesday evening.

Bernhard Schulte said that there were no reports of injuries among the 25 crew members, and that no cargo has been damaged. Initial investigations have ruled out mechanical or engine failure as reason for the grounding.

Everything from consumer products to machinery parts to oil flows through its waters.

Cropped satellite imagery captured on March 23, 2021 shows the cargo container ship Ever Given blocking the Suez Canal in Egypt.
Planet Labs
Cropped satellite imagery captured on March 23, 2021 shows the cargo container ship Ever Given blocking the Suez Canal in Egypt.

Nearly 19,000 ships passed through the canal during 2020, for an average of 51.5 per day, according to the Suez Canal Authority. The ship was sailing from China to Rotterdam when it ran aground.

Satellite images showed a buildup of ships on either end of the waterway as the Ever Given halted the flow of traffic.

The accident comes as the global supply chain already struggles to keep apace with demand. The shortages have been most acute in the chip industry, forcing automakers to suspend operations.

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