Suez Canal: Giant ship blocking Suez Canal finally freed
A giant container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week has finally been freed after a mammoth salvage operation using tug boats.
The 400m-long (1,300ft) Ever Given was wedged across the canal before salvage crews dislodged her on Monday.
It was not immediately clear when full traffic could resume in the canal.
Suez is one of the world’s busiest trade routes, and companies were forced to reroute ships, causing long tailbacks of hundreds of vessels.
Peter Berdowski, CEO of Dutch salvage company Boskalis, said the Ever Given had been refloated at 15:05 (13:05 GMT) on Monday, “thereby making free passage through the Suez Canal possible again”.
The vessel was being towed to a location outside the channel for further inspection.
Tug boats taking part in the operation honked their horns in celebration.
Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi thanked Egyptians for their efforts in “ending the crisis”.
Disruption to global trade will not end with the refloating of the Ever Given. According to Lloyd’s List, there are currently more than 370 ships waiting to pass through the canal, including container vessels, tankers, and bulk carriers. Clearing that backlog is expected to take several days.
Some ships have already left the region, preferring to take an alternative, longer route around the southern tip of Africa. They will be joined by other vessels travelling from East Asia to Europe – whose operators have decided not to risk waiting for the canal to reopen.
Inevitably, cargoes will be reaching their destination much later than planned. There may be congestion when they arrive in port, while future sailing schedules have been thrown into disarray.
The cost of shipping goods to Europe is expected to rise as a result. Industry experts are warning that the knock-on effects on delicately balanced supply chains could be felt for months to come.
How was the ship freed?
The 200,000-tonne Ever Given ran aground last Tuesday morning amid high winds and a sandstorm that affected visibility.
To refloat it, Boskalis deployed a specialist salvage team, SMIT Salvage Papendrecht. They first freed the stern, with the bow following, despite high winds.
Approximately 30,000 cubic metres of sand were dredged, with a total of 11 harbour tugs and two powerful seagoing tugs deployed, according to Boskalis.
On Sunday, canal officials had begun preparing to remove some of roughly 18,000 containers on board in order to lighten the load.
The containers are carrying a huge variety of items and the insured value of the cargo is believed to amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.