The locomotives and bulldozers are doing their best to empty the container ship that has been shutting down the Suez Canal for four days. The task is very complex given the ship is the size of a skyscraper and it is not known if it will take days or weeks to reopen this major trade route between Europe and Asia.
The accident, which occurred on Tuesday, caused major traffic jams, as dozens of ships were closed on both sides and in the waiting area in the middle of the canal. It also caused long delays in the delivery of oil and other commercial products.
The ship that ever ran aground. It is a ship weighing more than 220 thousand tons and a length of 400 meters.
Since Wednesday, the Egyptian Suez Canal Authority has tried to lift its ban. “The locomotives and bulldozers are used to break rocks” and try to free the boat, said Choi Kisen Kaisha, head of the Japanese company that owns the boat.
According to the SCA, between 15,000 and 20,000 cubic meters of sand would have to be removed to a depth of between 12 and 16 meters to be able to place the mega container ship on its feet.
Mohab Mamish, advisor to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on ports affairs, estimated, on Thursday, that shipping would resume “within 48 to 72 hours at most.” Memish, who recently oversaw the expansion of this busy sea lane connecting the Red Sea, added, “I have experience in various rescue operations of this kind, and as the former head of the Suez Canal Authority, I know every inch of the canal” with the Mediterranean Sea.
However, the work to be done is arduous and not everyone agrees with the Egyptian official. For example, Dutch company Smit Salvage has warned that the process could take “days or even weeks.”
The company that operates the vessel, Taiwan-based Evergreen Marine Corp. has mandated Smit Salvage and Japanese company Nippon Salvage to develop a “more effective plan” to operate the vessel. The first experts arrived at the Suez Canal on Thursday. Smit Salvage has participated in major rescue operations, such as the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk and the Italian cruiser Costa Concordia.
The maritime link between Europe and Asia opened in 1869, and this narrow man-made route allowed ships not to have to roam around the African continent, but it also suffered from the weight of several wars and years of inactivity.
An incident like the one that has occurred has consequences because 10% of international maritime trade passes this route, according to experts. According to the Securities and Commodities Authority, nearly 19,000 ships used the Suez Canal last year.
Ever Given was bound to Rotterdam, Netherlands from Asia. It drifted on Tuesday evening and closed in the southern section of the Suez Canal.
Experts cite strong winds as one of the causes of the accident on this 60-meter-high vessel. The Securities and Commodities Authority also spoke of a sandstorm, which is a common phenomenon in Egypt at this time of the year, which reduced visibility and caused the ship to drift.