Osama Rabie, Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, talks during a news conference in Suez, Egypt March 27, 2021. REUTERS
Up to 113 ships are set to pass through the Suez Canal in both directions by Tuesday morning, as the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) seeks to end the traffic jam caused by the stranding of the ship Ever Given within four days.
The announcement was made by the SCA Chairman Osama Rabie who said in a briefing on Monday that navigation along the canal was resumed today at 6pm local time (GMT+2), almost two hours-and-a-half after the Ever Given was fully refloated at 3:30pm.
The 400-metre-long Ever Given, which was on its way from China to the port city of Rotterdam in the Netherland, veered off course and ran aground diagonally while it was passing through the international trade route on Tuesday morning.
The gigantic ship, which had been wedged sideways across the waterway for six days, caused around 422 vessels to be queued at the waterway or at anchor awaiting transit through the canal, through which around 12 percent of all world trade passes.
Rabie said that operations at the canal will continue around the clock to clear the traffic jam caused by the mishap, which should be cleared within four days.
He added that priority has been given to ships carrying livestock given their need for supplies; these include five ships carrying over 60,000 heads of cattle.
Chairman Rabie praised the Egyptian agricultural minister, who dispatched veterinary teams to examine the animals and provide them with fodder and water.
Concerning the Ever Given, he stated that refloating such a large ship would have taken no less than three months if the incident had happened in any other country.
The salvage operation has been successfully concluded without any damage to the vessel, which after being afloat has been directed to the bitter lakes for further technical examinations, the SCA chairman said.
It will not be allowed to sail until making sure of its safety, he stressed.
The dredging and towing maneuvers, Rabie said, have been carried out by the SCA’s equipment, which have involved two new locally-manufactured tugs, as well as two foreign tugs.
He revealed that the Dutch salvage company has not been hired by the SCA but rather by the Ever Given’s owner, adding that its arrival did not alter the plans set by authority to deal with the crisis.
Investigations, causes and compensations
The head of the SCA asserted that last week’s sandstorm was not the only reason behind the grounding of the vessel, saying "in major accidents like of the Ever Given, there may not be one cause.”
The ship’s crew is believed to have lost steer ability due to low visibility and poor navigation caused by a strong sandstorm and 40-knot winds, he said.
“So if part of the accident happened due to the winds, I believe there are other parts related to human and technical errors. The matter, however, will only be determined by the investigations."
"I'm saying that because we have let [other] vessels to transit the canal in more complicated circumstances like in March 2020 when the winds reached 55 knots," he clarified.
Speaking on the compensations claims, the SCA said only the investigations will determine who is responsible for paying the compensations.
“What happened was not the authority’s fault; on the contrary, the canal has been negatively impacted,” he said.
Due to the incident, Rabie noted, the SCA has incurred losses of $12-15 million a day in revenues.