Ship stuck in Suez Canal “successfully refloated,” Egyptian officials say
Suez, Egypt — The colossal container ship that spent almost a week wedged across the Suez Canal was “successfully refloated” and on the move again on Monday, according to Egypt’s canal authority and an agency that helps run the shipping channel, but it was unclear when the logjam of ships at either end of the critical waterway might be cleared.
A statement posted on Monday morning to the Egyptian government’s Suez Canal Authority (SCA), attributed to chairman and director Admiral Osama Rabie, said the MV Ever Given “has been successfully refloated. This was the result of successful push and tow maneuvers which led to the restoration of 80% of the vessel’s direction.”
High tide later on Monday morning appeared to help crews move the hulking ship back into the center of the canal, and a statement posted online by the Leth agency, which provides myriad services for the canal in partnership with the SCA, said later that the Ever Given was “now underway to Great Bitter Lake,” a holding lake in the middle of the canal. That northerly movement suggested that all canal traffic could soon resume, and the SCA said it would hold a news conference at 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. Eastern) to give an update on the movement of other vessels.
“His Excellency, Admiral Rabie, would like to reassure the international navigation society as navigation shall be resumed immediately upon the complete restoration of the vessel’s direction and directing it to the Bitter Lakes waiting area for technical inspection,” the SCA said in its earlier statement.
There was no immediate confirmation of reports that other vessels had begun transiting the canal again with the Ever Given making its way toward the Great Bitter Lake.
As CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports, even when the canal does open back up, the backup has already caused significant disruption.
“Even when it starts to flow again there’s going to be some days to clear that backlog, so you got those knock on effects all the way through the supply chain,” said Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping. “You’ve got to remember that ships carry just about everything from medical equipment to food to grain to fuel to all the other things in between.”
Global marine services provider Inchcape Shipping was the first to say the Ever Given had been freed early on Monday morning. Inchcape said in a tweet that the Ever Given was “being secured at the moment. More information about next steps will follow once they are known.” The tweet included a diagram appearing to show the ship partially straightened.
Nearly a week ago, the skyscraper-sized Ever Given got stuck sideways in the crucial waterway, creating a massive traffic jam. The obstruction has been holding up $9 billion each day in global trade and straining supply chains already burdened by the coronavirus pandemic.
As of Monday, 367 vessels, carrying everything from crude oil to cattle, were still waiting to pass through the canal, while dozens more are taking the alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip, adding around two weeks to journeys and threatening delivery delays.
The freeing of the vessel came after intensive efforts to push and pull the vessel with 10 tugboats when the full moon brought spring tide, Leth Agencies said, raising the canal’s water level and hopes for a breakthrough.
Overnight, several dredgers had toiled to vacuum up 27,000 cubic meters of sand and mud around the ship. Another powerful tugboat, Carlo Magno, was racing to the scene to join the efforts.
Although the vessel is vulnerable to damage in its current position, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the company that owns the Ever Given, dismissed concerns on Monday, saying that the ship’s engine was functional and it could pursue its trip normally when freed.
Canal authorities have desperately tried to free the vessel by relying on tugs and dredgers alone, even as analysts warned that 1,300-feet-long ship, weighing some 220,000 tons, may be too heavy for such an operation. As a window for a breakthrough narrowed with high tide receding this week, fears had grown that authorities would be forced to lighten the vessel by removing some of the ship’s 20,000 containers — a complex operation, requiring specialized equipment not found in Egypt, that could take days or weeks.