Suez blockage could last many more days


Another attempt to refloat megaship blocking Egypt's Suez Canal fails

The Ever Given, a Panama-flagged ship that carries cargo between Asia and Europe, ran aground Tuesday in the narrow canal that runs between Africa and the Sinai Peninsula.

It has now been four days since Ever Given, the 400-metre long container got stuck between banks of the Suez Canal.

On Saturday morning, 10 tugs were still helping to free the vessel, said Leth Agencies, noting unconfirmed reports by Egyptian media outlets that the ship's propeller and rudder had been released by the salvage operations, which includes a specialized suction dredger capable of shifting 70, 600 cubic feet of sand every hour.

He told the Dutch current affairs show Nieuwsuur on Friday night that the front of the ship is stuck in sandy clay, but the rear "has not been completely pushed into the clay and that is positive because you can use the rear end to pull it free".

"If we don't succeed in getting it loose next week, we will have to remove some 600 containers from the bow to reduce the weight", he said.

The president of Shoei Kisen - the Japanese firm which owns the giant container vessel - said it could be freed from the canal bed later Saturday, while the parent company of the Dutch salvage firm in charge of the operation eyed a target of early next week.

Two US Defence Department officials told CNN that the US Navy plans to assist Egypt in freeing the container ship.

Authorities blame the cause of the accident on strong winds that reached up to 40 knots, which are also the culprit behind massive sandstorms across Egypt. Mark Ma, owner of China-based Seabay International Freight Forwarding Ltd, which has 20 to 30 containers waiting to cross the blocked canal, said that if traffic doesn't resume in a week, "it will be horrible".

Egypt Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly called the ship's predicament "a very extraordinary incident", in his first public comments on the blockage in a press conference in Cairo.

Shoei Kisen Kaisha acknowledged the company's fault in a statement on Thursday that the incident is "extremely difficult" to solve and assured that they would do their best to dislodge the ship. The White House said it has offered to help Egypt reopen the canal. "We have equipment and capacity that most countries don't have and we're seeing what we can do and what help we can be", President Biden told reporters.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday that the USA officials have consulted with Egyptian peers on how to support efforts to refloat the Ever Given.

"No ships stranded in the Suez Canal have changed their courses to other routes", Rabie said, adding that he rules out any ships would change their courses in the future, explaining that the Suez Canal "is the shortest passage for the maritime navigational traffic one the world".

Under normal circumstances, the temporary delays in global supply chains would not be a "big issue", it said.

There are two canal pilots aboard to guide the ship through the canal. The closure could affect oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East.

It's unclear how long it might take to free the Ever Given.

In addition to oil, consumer goods such as clothing, furniture and auto parts are transported through the canal.

Apart from that, shipping lines would be advised to explore the alternative of re-routing ships via Cape of Good Hope, although such re-routing generally takes 15 additional days. But we also understand when other sailors are in a fix or other seamen are working really hard day and night to try to correct a situation.

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