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Giant Vessel Is Now Afloat, Inchcape Says: Suez Update

The 'Ever Given' container ship blocking transit along the Suez Canal in Ismailia, Egypt, on Sunday, March 28, 2021. Photographer: Islam Safwat/Bloomberg

Salvage teams freed the Ever Given in the Suez Canal, according to maritime services provider Inchcape, almost a week after the giant vessel ran aground in one of the world’s most important trade paths.

While the ship is floating again, it wasn’t immediately clear how soon the waterway would be open to traffic, or how long it will take to clear the logjam of more than 450 ships stuck, waiting and en route to the Suez that have identified it as their next destination.

The backlog is one more strain for global supply chains already stretched by the pandemic as the canal is a conduit for about 12% of global trade. Some ships have already opted for the long and expensive trip around the southern tip of Africa instead of Suez.

The breakthrough in the rescue attempt came after diggers removed 27,000 cubic meters of sand, going deep into the banks of the canal.

Latest stories:

Highlights:

  • 27,000 cubic meters of sand were dug out, to a depth of 18 meters
  • Egypt had set a deadline of Tuesday to start unloading the ship if it wasn’t refloated yet
  • The ship’s front was damaged, though the vessel is stable
  • Explainers: Why the Suez Canal is so important, and why shipping was in a bind even before this crisis
Herculean Gust

Powerful Winds Led to Grounding (Sunday, 1:15 a.m. London)

The Ever Given experienced strong winds and gusts in excess of 35 to 40 miles an hour around the time of its grounding in the Suez Canal according to an analysis from weather technology company ClimaCell. Conditions may have made the 400-meter long vessel more difficult to maneuver or kicked up desert sand reducing visibility, Chief Scientist Daniel Rothenberg said in an email. “Such strong winds happen infrequently — only once every few years — in our historical analysis,” he said.

Canal Workers Dredge To 18 Meters As 350 Ships Wait
Farmers on a horse-drawn cart passes The ‘Ever Given’ container ship blocking transit along the Suez Canal in Ismailia, Egypt, on Sunday, March 28, 2021. A new attempt could be made Sunday to re-float the 400-meter-long container ship blocking the Suez Canal.

The Line Gets Longer (Sunday, London 8:45 p.m.)

The number of ships waiting to enter the Suez Canal now exceeds the size of the entire U.S. Navy fleet. Data compiled by Bloomberg show there are 453 vessels queued up Sunday, compared with around 100 at the start of the blockage.

Bulk carriers typically hauling commodities such as grains, coal and iron ore account for the biggest share of the vessels stuck in and around the canal. The data also indicate as many as 15 vessels that could be carrying thousands of livestock.

Vessel Type

Bulk Carrier

Container Ship (Fully Cellular)

General Cargo Ship

Chemical/Products Tanker

Crude Oil Tanker

Vehicles Carrier

Livestock Carrier

LPG Tanker

LNG Tanker

Total

Count (Sunday)

90

82

39

31

27

17

15

11

11

453

Around 200,000 Animals Stranded (Sunday, London 2:30 p.m.)

About 200,000 animals could be stranded in the ships held up at the canal, according to an estimate from advocacy group Animals International. The group has tallied 18 vessels that departed Romania, Spain and South America and are currently stuck in the queue. Many are likely carrying sheep, said European Union director Gabriel Paun. Vessels can’t easily unload animals in other nearby countries due to health protocols or a lack of trade agreements, he said.

“It’s just another incident which shows that no matter which contingency plan you design, tragedies may occur over and over as long as we don’t replace the export of live animals with the export of refrigerated and frozen meat,” Paun said.

Ever Given’s Front Was Damaged; Now Stable (Sunday, London 12:40 p.m.)

The ship’s front, or bow, was damaged and water entered two tanks, according to a spokesman for Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the vessel’s manager.

High-powered pumps were used to get the water out the compartments and the vessel is stable, said the spokesman. Once the Ever Given’s moved, there will be an assessment to determine whether it’s fit to leave the canal. There’s nothing at the moment to suggest it won’t be able to sail out the waterway, the spokesman said.

Authorities Prepare to Off-load Ship (Sunday, London 12:15 p.m.)

Osama Rabie, head of the Suez Canal Authority, told television channel Arabiya that he was preparing for the option of lightening the vessel by removing containers. But he hopes it won’t be necessary as it would be difficult and protracted.

Canal Authority Dredges to 18 meters (Sunday, London 11:30 a.m.)

The Suez Canal Authority said in a statement it’s so far shifted 27,000 cubic meters of sand around the ship to reach a depth of 18 meters.

Syrian Oil Supplies Delayed (Sunday, London 10:30 a.m.)

Syria’s oil ministry said the stranded ship has delayed the arrival of a tanker carrying fuel to the country. The government is rationing supplies as a result. “Waiting for the return of normal movement of navigation via the Suez Canal may take an unknown time,” it said.

–With assistance from Tarek El-Tablawy, Abdel Latif Wahba, Megan Durisin, Joe Carroll, Fred Pals, Verity Ratcliffe and Aaron Clark.

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