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Monday, 19 April 2021

Efforts to free ship stuck in Suez Canal taking time due to vessel's massive size: Head of SCA

Expert at Norway-based quality assurance company DNV GL Ashraf Belal told Ahram Online that the operations to release the giant cargo ship 'may take several days'

Amr Kandil , Wednesday 24 Mar 2021
MV Ever Given
The bow of container vessel MV Ever Given after running aground in the Suez Canal on March 24. (Photo: Suez Canal Authority/via AP Photo)
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Head of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) Osama Rabie said on Wednesday evening that efforts are still ongoing to dislodge the giant Panama-flagged container ship EVER GIVEN, which has halted navigation through Egypt's Suez Canal since Tuesday.

Rabie revealed that due to the ship’s massive size, attempts to float the vessel have been taking a long time. Eight tug boats have been dispatched to float the 400-metre-long ship, according to a statement by the SCA.

Expert at Norway-based quality assurance company DNV GL Ashraf Belal told Ahram Online that the operations to release the giant cargo ship "may take several days."

Martijn Schuttevaer, spokesman for Dutch marine services company Boskalis, was quoted by Reuters as saying that its subsidiary Smit Salvage has been hired to help with the operation. A team of around 10 people are heading to Egypt to assist in the rescue efforts, according to Reuters.

The 224,000-tonne Taiwan-owned container ship had set sail from China and was passing through the Suez Canal as part of a northbound convoy on its way to Rotterdam. The ship ran aground sideways at the canal's 151-kilometre mark.

After the vessel is freed, it will likely be towed to Suez city for technical assessment before it is allowed to complete its trip, Belal predicted.

The 59-metre-wide vessel lodged sideways and has blocked navigation in one of the most vital shipping lanes worldwide due to a sandstorm and 40-knot winds, which caused poor visibility, the SCA said.

Rabie stressed that the SCA successfully dealt with similar cases previously.

“A similar incident happened in 2008 and blocked the Suez Canal for four days,” Belal said, referring to a 12,000-tonne English vessel that was knocked off course after suffering electricity issues.

Similar incidents also occurred in 2004 and 2017, according to Bloomberg.

In 2017, tugboats managed to release the OOCL Japan after it was stuck for several hours. In 2004, an oil tanker, Tropic Brilliance, got lodged, keeping the canal blocked for three days.

The stranded EVER GIVEN delayed the passage of ships including tankers carrying oil, reportedly causing oil prices to increase by around 5 percent.

CNN cited an official as saying that the number of ships congesting behind the vessel could reach 100 and will increase over time.

The Suez Canal, connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, was opened in 1869. It is a major source of foreign currency to the African country, bringing in $5.6 billion in revenues in 2020.

About 12 percent of world trade passes through the Suez Canal, which is the fastest water artery between Europe and Asia.

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