The head of the Suez Canal Authority has warned that there is no timeline for freeing the 220,000-ton container ship that has blocked one of the major arteries of world trade, with attempts likely to shift to unloading its cargo if it fails. may be lifted in the coming days.
Efforts to liberate the once data continued on Saturday, with salvage experts deploying powerful dredgers and tugs, but Osama Rabie, who heads the authority, said they might have to resort to what he called ‘plan C’ – and anyway some of the thousands of containers on board.
Shipping and salvage experts have warned that moving to unload the ship’s containers would likely delay the canal’s reopening by weeks, cutting supply chains for everything from auto parts and raw materials like crude oil to children’s toys. , are seriously disturbed.
About 12 percent of all shipping runs via the Suez Canal, the fastest route from Europe to Asia. Dozens of container ships and oil tankers have already begun to circumnavigate Africa, a route that will add more than a week to travel time, and some ships have been ordered to unload cargo at nearby ports.
Rabie said there was some hope on Friday as the vessel, which sits diagonally across the two banks of the canal, showed some signs of “reaction” to the dredging efforts and the multiple tugs deployed to try to tow it off. The stern and rudder had moved, he said.
But he added that low tide had thwarted the latest attempts.
The White House said on Friday that the US was offering assistance to Egyptian authorities to help liberate the ship, in a sign that concerns about the canal’s closure have reached the highest levels of international government.
But it is not clear what additional assistance the US could provide, as international recovery companies are already in Egypt.
The logistics of unloading 40-foot containers, which can weigh about 30 tons when full, from a height of nearly 60 meters is far from simple, as the accident is far from any port infrastructure.
Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis – owner of Smit Salvage who has worked to free the ship – said late Friday that he still hoped the ship could be released early next week “but everything will have to end exactly. Just before that.”
“The bow is really stuck in the sandy clay, but the stern is not completely pushed into the clay, which is positive,” Berdowski told Dutch TV program Nieuwsuur on Friday, according to Reuters.
He added that more heavy tugs would arrive this weekend.
“We hope that a combination of the tugs, sand dredging at the bow and a high tide will allow us to get the ship free,” said Berdowski.
Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world’s second-largest shipping group, said on Saturday that the world was experiencing “one of the biggest disruptions to world trade in recent years,” and warned that customers will see a “deterioration in the reliability of the supply chain should expect “. Even if the channel could be unblocked quickly.
“Sailing around the Cape of Good Hope is an option on some routes, while in others it is more about working closely with our customers to see what other solutions we can come up with,” said Caroline Becquart, MSC’s senior vice president.
“Unfortunately, even when the canal reopens due to the huge backlog of ships anchored, it will lead to an increase in arrivals at certain ports and we may have new congestion problems.”
Rabie said the number of ships waiting to pass through the canal had risen to about 320.
Lloyd’s List estimates that more than $ 10 billion a day in goods has been delayed at the channel’s north and south entrances since the Ever Given got stuck on Tuesday.
Rabie said Egypt was losing up to $ 14 million a day in channel funds.