- Boskalis and Smit Salvage warned that using too much force to tug the ship could damage it
- The SCA said 321 vessels were waiting to enter or continue their transit through the canal
- None have chosen to reroute around the Cape of Good Hope, which could delay their journey by weeks
The 400-metre long Ever Given became wedged diagonally across a southern section of the canal during high winds early on Tuesday (local time), disrupting global shipping by blocking one of the world’s busiest waterways.
Suez Canal Authority (SCA) Chairman Osama Rabie said he hoped it would not be necessary to resort to removing some of the 18,300 containers from the Ever Given ship to lighten its load, but that strong tides and winds were complicating efforts to free it.
“The ship’s stern began to move towards Suez, and that was a positive sign until 11:00pm (local time) at night, but the tide fell significantly and we stopped,” Mr Rabie told journalists.
Dredgers had removed some 20,000 tonnes of sand from around its bow by Friday (Friday).
Mr Rabie said 321 vessels were waiting to enter or continue their transit through the canal.
He said the ships were free to reroute around the Cape of Good Hope, but none had yet done so.
Those included dozens of container ships, bulk carriers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vessels, according to a shipping source.
Hundreds of containers might need to be removed
A Dutch firm working to free the vessel said it could be dislodged by the start of next week if heavier tugboats, dredging and a high tide succeeded.
Tugging attempts restarted on Saturday afternoon (local time) and further efforts were planned on Saturday night and Sunday morning, three sources with knowledge of canal operations said, though they added it could be necessary to remove more sand from around the ship to free it.
“We aim to get it done after the weekend, but everything will have to work out exactly right for that,” Peter Berdowski, chief executive of Boskalis, told Dutch TV programme Nieuwsuur.
Mr Boskalis owns Smit Salvage, which was brought in this week to help with efforts by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) to dislodge the ship.
He said a land crane would be brought in over the weekend, which could lighten the Ever Given’s load by removing containers, though experts had warned that such a process could be complex and lengthy.
“That will set us back days at least, because where to leave all those containers will be quite a puzzle.”
Mr Berdowski said the bow of the ship was stuck in the sandy clay, but that the stern had not been completely pushed into the clay.
“We can try to use that as leverage to pull it loose,” he said.
“Heavy tugboats, with a combined capacity of 400 tonnes, will arrive this weekend.
“We hope that a combination of the tugboats, dredging of sand at the bow and a high tide will enable us to get the ship loose at the beginning of next week.”
Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly thanked foreign partners for offers to help refloat the ship.
Shipping rates for oil double
About 15 per cent of world shipping traffic transits the Suez Canal, and hundreds of vessels are waiting to pass through the waterway once the blockage is cleared.
The Ever Given blockage set shipping rates racing and scrambled global supply chains, threatening costly delays for companies already dealing with COVID-19 restrictions.
Shippers can decide to reroute around the Cape of Good Hope, but it adds about two weeks to journeys and extra fuel costs.
Fourteen tugs had so far been involved in efforts to refloat the Ever Given, although Boskalis and Smit Salvage warned that using too much force to tug the ship could damage it.