AP

Canal service provider says container ship in Suez set free

Mar 29, 2021, 7:24 AM | Updated: 7:32 am
Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship blocks the Suez Canal almost a week after it got stuck side...
Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship blocks the Suez Canal almost a week after it got stuck sideways in the crucial waterway, Monday, March 29, 2021. Engineers on Monday "partially refloated" the colossal container ship that continues to block traffic through the Suez Canal, a canal services firm said, without providing further details about when the vessel would be fully set free. (AP Photo/Mohamed Elshahed)
(AP Photo/Mohamed Elshahed)

SUEZ, Egypt (AP) — A canal service provider says that workers have successfully set free a colossal container ship that for nearly a week has been stuck sideways across the Suez Canal, one of the world’s most crucial arteries for trade.

Leth Agencies said that the vessel had been refloated on Monday. Helped by the peak of high tide, a flotilla of tugboats managed to wrench the bow of the skyscraper-sized Ever Given from the sandy back of the crucial waterway, where it had been firmly lodged since last Tuesday.

Tugboats were pulling the vessel toward the Great Bitter Lake, in the middle of the waterway, where it will undergo inspections.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. The following is AP’s previous story.

Engineers on Monday “partially refloated” the colossal container ship that continues to block traffic through the Suez Canal, authorities said, without providing further details about when the vessel would be set free.

Satellite data from MarineTraffic.com showed that the ship’s bulbous bow, once lodged deep in the canal’s eastern bank, had been partly wrested from the shore — although it remained stuck at the canal’s edge. The ship’s stern had swung around and was now in the middle of the waterway, tracking data showed.

Although the development marked the vessel’s most significant movement since getting stuck last week, the salvage crew urged caution as obstacles loomed.

“Don’t cheer too soon,” Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, the salvage firm hired to extract the Ever Given, told Dutch NPO Radio 1.

Last Tuesday, the skyscraper-sized Ever Given got stuck sideways in the crucial waterway, creating a massive traffic jam. The obstruction has held up $9 billion each day in global trade and strained supply chains already burdened by the coronavirus pandemic. At least 367 vessels, carrying everything from crude oil to cattle, were still waiting to pass through the canal, while dozens were taking the lengthy alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip — a detour that costs ships hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and other costs.

With canal transits stopped, Egypt already has lost over $95 million in revenue, according to the data firm Refinitiv. If the ship is freed in the next few days, clearing the backlog of ships waiting to pass through the canal would take over 10 days, Refinitiv added.

The partial freeing of the vessel came after intensive efforts to push and pull the vessel with 10 tugboats when the full moon brought spring tide, canal services firm Leth Agencies said, raising the canal’s water level and hopes for a breakthrough. Videos shared widely on social media showed tugboats in the canal sounding their horns in celebration.

Even as salvage work was ongoing, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi portrayed the development as a victory in his first comments on the stranded vessel.

“Egyptians have succeeded in ending the crisis,” he wrote on Facebook.

However, the rescue team said the ship’s bow remained stuck in the sandy clay at the canal’s edge.

“The good news is that the stern is free but we saw that as the simplest part of the job,” said Berdowski, noting that workers would struggle to haul the 220,000-ton vessel over the clay of the canal bank.

An official at Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the company that owns the Ever Given, confirmed the vessel’s bow had moved slightly, but warned the bottom of the ship was touching the seafloor. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

On Monday morning, an Associated Press journalist could see that the ship’s position had distinctly changed — where previously only the ship’s stern was visible, the ship’s side could now be seen.

Lt. Gen. Osama Rabei, the head of the Suez Canal Authority, said workers had straightened the vessel’s position by 80% and that the stern had moved 102 meters (334 feet) from the canal bank.

The price of international benchmark Brent crude dropped some 2% to just over $63 on the news.

With high tide returning at 11:30 a.m. local time on Monday, salvage crews resumed their attempts to tow the ship into the middle of the waterway. An Egyptian TV channel aired live footage of five tugboats with ropes around the ship’s bow, their engines churning, struggling to nudge it away from the shore. Weather forecasts showed strong winds, gusting up to 32 kph (20 mph).

Although the vessel is vulnerable to damage in its current position, the vessel’s owner said that the ship’s engine was functional and it would head north when freed. It wasn’t decided whether the Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned ship, would continue to its original destination of Rotterdam or if it will need to enter another port for repairs, the Shoei official said. Workers would first try to pull it toward the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south end of the canal, where it would undergo technical examination, according to canal authorities.

Ship operators did not offer a timeline for the reopening of the crucial canal, which carries over 10% of global trade, including 7% of the world’s oil. Millions of barrels of oil and liquified natural gas flow through the artery from the Persian Gulf to Europe and North America.

The unprecedented shutdown has threatened to disrupt oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East and raised fears of extended delays, good shortages and rising costs for consumers.

Canal authorities have desperately tried to free the vessel by relying on tugs and dredgers alone, even as analysts warned that 400-meter-long ship may be too heavy for such an operation. As a window for a breakthrough narrows with high tide receding this week, fears have grown that authorities would be forced to lighten the vessel by removing the ship’s 20,000 containers — a complex operation, requiring specialized equipment not found in Egypt, that could take days or weeks.

The salvage team’s next step is dredging beneath the vessel’s bow with high pressure water jets to wrench the ship from the clay, said Berdowski.

“If that doesn’t work, then in the end you will have to remove weight and that can only happen by removing containers from the front,” he added. “But that is a process that will take time.”

___

DeBre reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Mike Corder at The Hague, Netherlands; Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

Frankfurter-munching phenom Joey “Jaws” Chestnut has gobbled his way to a 15th win at the Natha...
By JENNIFER PELTZ and JULIA NIKHINSON Associated Press

Joey Chestnut is chomp champ again in July 4 hot dog contest

NEW YORK (AP) — Frankfurter-munching phenom Joey “Jaws” Chestnut put a protester in a chokehold while gobbling his way to a 15th win Monday at the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest, powering down 63 hot dogs and buns at the annual exhibition of excess. In a decisive chowdown comeback, women’s record-holder […]
21 hours ago
FILE - Fireworks explode over Baltimore's Inner Harbor during the Ports America Chesapeake 4th of J...
BOBBY CAINA CALVAN ASSOCIATED PRESS

A turbulent US this July 4, but many see cause to celebrate

July 4 has arrived as many citizens struggle to find a reason to celebrate. Yet many also see cause for celebration, including President Joe Biden.
21 hours ago
A Navy soldier stands guard as authorities wait for the arrival of people who were evacuated from t...
Associated Press

Tropical Storm Colin brings rain to Carolinas, weakens

Tropical Storm Colin formed along the coast on Saturday. Conditions are expected to improve by Monday's Fourth of July celebrations.
2 days ago
A female bison and calf are seen near the Yellowstone River in Wyoming's Hayden Valley, on Wednesda...
Mark Jones

2nd visitor in 3 days gored by Yellowstone National Park bison

In less than a week, two visitors to Yellowstone National Park have been gored by bison. Park officials say to stay at least 25 yards away from a bison.
4 days ago
Travelers wait in for a TSA security check at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles,...
DAVID KOENIG ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pre-pandemic sized crowds descend on US airports for holiday

TSA is reporting crowds of pre-pandemic size are traveling this Independence Day.
4 days ago
Residents stand in front of building destroyed by missiles in Ukraine...
FRANCESCA EBEL Associated Press

Russian missiles kill at least 19 in Ukraine’s Odesa region

The Ukrainian president's office said three Kh-22 missiles fired by Russian bombers struck an apartment building and a campsite.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Canal service provider says container ship in Suez set free