The Ever Given, the container ship that has been blocking the Suez Canal for days, maybe pulled loose tonight.
Yukito Higaki, the chairman of the ship leasing company Shoei Kisen Kaisha, had that hope during a press conference for Japanese media. Time is running out: no fewer than 321 ships are already in a traffic jam to sail through the canal. In addition, twenty boats appear to contain live livestock.
Higaki explained that soil is removed from under the ship with the help of dredging equipment, a job that the Dutch company Smit Salvage helps with. Once pulled loose, the 400-meter-long Ever Given should function as before. “The ship does not take water. There are also no problems with the rudder and the ship’s propellers.”
CEO Peter Berdowski of Boskalis, the parent company of Smit Salvage, was already optimistic about the chances of success yesterday. “If all goes well, the Ever Given can be released after the weekend,” it sounded on Dutch TV. He previously feared that the situation could drag on for weeks.
Time is running out to find a solution. According to the Suez Canal authorities, no fewer than 321 ships are in a traffic jam to pass through the canal. There are now also live livestock on twenty ships.
“My biggest fear is that the animals will be in need of food and water,” says Gerit Weidinger of the animal organization ‘Animals International’. “They are in danger of starving or dehydrating. And what should then be done with the remains? This whole situation is a ticking time bomb.”
12% of world trade
The ship ran aground on Tuesday and is so transverse that Egypt’s channel is blocked for other ships. This affects global transport flows hard because normally, many ships sail for freight transport between Europe and Asia.
The Suez Canal accounts for about 12 percent of world trade. Nearly $ 10 billion worth of goods are transported through the canal every day. The United States has also recently offered assistance to clear cargo ship congestion.
Boskalis reports that larger tugs will arrive at Ever Given this afternoon. They have extra towing power to get the ship loose again, explains a spokesman. The ship is stuck because the bottom on the sides of the channel is less deep than in the middle fairway.
“Attempts are constantly being made to pull the ship,” said a Boskalis spokesperson. ‘If enough has already been dredged for the current towing capacity, that would, of course, be great. But the big sea tugs arrive early in tomorrow’s afternoon. You go a step further with that, then you have considerably more pulling power. It would be tomorrow night at the earliest that something will happen with that, but it may be Monday.”
Simultaneously with the towing and dredging work, Boskalis subsidiary Smit Salvage is also looking into the possibilities of making the container ship lighter. Up to now, 9,000 tonnes of ballast water has been discharged, which should normally give the ship stability. The company also wants to pump fuel out of the ship and remove cargo.