Suez canal: Grounded Ever Given cargo ship moves for first time but it is still unknown when it will be free
The cargo ship that blocked the Suez canal and caused a backlog of vessels affecting global trade has reportedly been moved 17 metres to the north.
It is hoped that the Ever Given, which is grounded in the canal, will move further as high tide hits at approximately 10pm Cairo time (8pm GMT). The Panama-flagged 220,000 tonne cargo carrier ran aground on Tuesday, sparking an emergency push to free the shipping route. Efforts to free the ship using dredgers, digging and the aid of high tides have yet to push the container vessel aside — affecting billions of dollars’ worth of cargo.
The accident, which has been blamed on wind, has strangled the global shipping trade, with around 300 other vessels waiting to pass through the crucial waterway. In a sign of the global turmoil the blockage has caused, the ship’s Japanese owner has offered a written apology for the incident as well.
The company that owns the ship, Shoei Kisen, said getting the ship moving was “extremely difficult”, but that there were no injuries or oil spillage caused by it running aground. So far, dredgers have tried to clear silt around the massive ship.
Tug boats have been nudging the vessel, trying to force it to gain some momentum. From the shore, at least one digger had carved into the canal’s sandy banks, suggesting the bow of the ship had ploughed into it. Osama Rabei, the head of the canal authority, said on Thursday that navigation through the waterway would remain stopped until they refloat the vessel.
A team from Boskalis, a Dutch firm that specialies in salvaging, arrived at the canal on Thursday, although one of the company’s top officials said removing the vessel could take “days to weeks”. Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the company that manages the Ever Given, said the ship’s 25-member crew were safe and accounted for. Shoei Kisen Kaisha said all the crew came from India.
The ship had two pilots from Egypt’s canal authority aboard the vessel to guide it when the grounding happened at around 7:45am on Tuesday, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement said. Cargo ships behind the Ever Given in the canal have been reversed to Port Suez to free the channel, Leth Agencies said. Authorities hope to do the same to the Ever Given when they can free it.
On Thursday Evergreen Marine Corporation, a Taiwanese container transportation and shipping company that operates the stuck ship, said the Ever Given had been overcome by strong winds as it entered the canal, something Egyptian officials had said as well. High winds and a sandstorm plagued the area on Tuesday, with winds gusting as much as 30mph.
Any closure of the Suez Canal could affect oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East, which rely on the canal to avoid sailing around Africa. The price of international benchmark Brent crude oil stood at more than £63 a barrel on Thursday.
Maritime journal Lloyd’s List has estimated that each day the Suez Canal is closed more than £9 billion worth of goods that should be passing through the waterway is disrupted. A quarter of all Suez Canal traffic a day comes from container ships such as the Ever Given, the journal said. Lars Jensen, chief executive of Denmark-based SeaIntelligence Consulting, said: “Blocking something like the Suez Canal really sets in motion a number of dominos toppling each other over.
The effect is not only going to be the simple, immediate one with cargo being delayed over the next few weeks, but will actually have repercussions several months down the line for the supply chain.” The Ever Given, built in 2018 is one of the largest cargo ships in the world. It can carry roughly 20,000 containers at a time.
It previously had docked at ports in China before heading toward Rotterdam in the Netherlands