Ship stuck in Suez Canal shifts during refloating efforts

Stern and rudder of Ever Given move but still unknown when megaship will be refloated

Tugboats and a specialised suction dredger are being used in an attempt to refloat the Ever Given. Photograph: Maxar Tech/AFP via Getty

Tugboats and a specialised suction dredger are being used in an attempt to refloat the Ever Given. Photograph: Maxar Tech/AFP via Getty

 

The ship blocking the Suez Canal has moved during refloating efforts, according to the head of the Suez Canal Authority.

Osama Rabie said on Saturday that efforts to dislodge the Ever Given had allowed its stern and rudder to move, but he could not predict when it would be refloated.

Mr Rabie said he hoped it would not be necessary to resort to removing containers from the ship to lighten its load, but that strong tides and winds were complicating efforts to free it.

He said 321 vessels were waiting to enter or continue their transit through the canal.

Those included dozens of container ships, bulk carriers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vessels, according to a shipping source.

The Ever Given, owned by Japanese firm Shoei Kisen KK, got wedged on Tuesday in a single-lane stretch of the canal, north of the southern entrance near the city of Suez.

Shoei Kisen president Yukito Higaki said 10 tugboats were deployed and workers were dredging the banks and sea floor near the vessel’s bow to try to get it afloat again as the high tide starts to go out.

“We apologise for blocking the traffic and causing the tremendous trouble and worry to many people, including the involved parties,” he told a news conference at the company headquarters in Imabari, western Japan, on Friday.

Shoei Kisen said the company has considered removing its containers to get the weight off the vessel, but it is a very difficult operation.

The company said it may still consider that option if the ongoing refloating efforts fail.

A team from Boskalis, a Dutch firm specialising in salvaging, was working with the canal authority using tugboats and a specialised suction dredger at the port side of the cargo ship’s bow.

An initial investigation showed the vessel ran aground due to strong winds and ruled out mechanical or engine failure, the company said.

The maritime traffic jam grew to more than 200 vessels on Friday outside the Suez Canal and some vessels began changing course. More than 100 ships were still en route to the waterway, according to the data firm Refinitiv.

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hopes to avoid a global debacle as the flow of goods and canal duties are disrupted while dozens of vessels wait to sail through the canal.

For Egypt, the Suez Canal is a precious national icon symbolising the greatness of its ancient civilisation. Egyptians are proud of the modern nation’s ability to guide traffic smoothly through one of the world’s vital waterways. – Associated Press, Reuters