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Cargo Ship Runs Aground, Blocks Suez Canal

Friday, March 26, 2021

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On Tuesday morning (March 23), a massive container ship ran aground while traveling northbound through Egypt’s Suez Canal to the Mediterranean from the Red Sea, blocking a crucial waterway in the global trading industry.

Measuring 120 miles long, 79 feet deep and 673 feet wide, the Suez Canal can handle dozens of giant and even ultra-large container ships that are too big for the Panama Canal. In 2015, the canal was expanded for $8 billion to enable ships to transit in both directions simultaneously, but only in part of the waterway.

According to reports, the Panama-flagged container ship, known as the Ever Given, became wedged across the canal after experiencing a “blackout” during a dust storm in which wind gust reached up to 30 miles per hour. The ship is owned by Taiwan-based Evergreen Line and regularly carries cargo between Asia and Europe.

The vessel entered the canal some 45 minutes before it became stuck, moving at 12.8 knots (about 24 kph, 15 mph) just before the crash.

Images of the 220,000-ton, 400-meter-long (1,312 feet) ship after its displacement reveal that its bow was touching the eastern wall, while its stern appeared lodged against the western wall—an extraordinary event that’s been unheard of in the canal’s 150-year history—blocking the waterway for other container vessels to move in either direction.

However, to further explain how the incident might have occurred, Jamil Sayegh, a former captain and maritime law specialist with experience navigating the canal, suggested that due to the high winds, the containers above deck essentially acted as a vast sail, which is what caused the vessel to go off course. Although, Sayegh didn’t leave out human error as a potential factor, further explaining that ships traverse the canal in convoys and none of the vessels behind the Ever Given had run into similar troubles.

“Ships are machines run by propulsion engines with rudders that are almost identical in all vessels,” he said. “The variables on board are the software and the personnel.”

Sayegh also added that vessels traveling through the Suez are obligated to use Egyptian pilots to help them navigate the stretch, however, a ship’s captain retains ultimate authority.

The ship’s technical manager, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, reported that all 20 onboard crew members were safe and accounted for, with no injuries or pollution reported.

To mediate the wrench that had been thrown in one of the world’s most vital trading routes, which accounts for nearly 10% of world trade flows and which is particularly crucial for the transport of oil, the Suez Canal Authority deployed eight tugboats to refloat the ship. Additionally, backhoes and other heavy equipment were also deployed to dig out the sand bank around the vessel’s bow in an effort to free it.

“The Suez Canal will not spare any efforts to ensure the restoration of navigation and to serve the movement of global trade,” vowed Lt. Gen. Ossama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority.

Egyptian officials reported that operations to refloat the ship would likely take at least two days, though, the GAC, a Dubai-based marine services reported Wednesday morning that the Ever Given was partially refloated and moved alongside the canal bank.

“Convoys and traffic are expected to resume as soon as the vessel is towed to another position,” GAC said on its website.

Two professional rescue teams, Smit Salvage from The Netherlands and Nippon Salvage from Japan were also deployed to assist local authorities in designing a more effective plan to refloat the vessel. Evergreen Marine Corp said the teams were appointed by the shipowner and would work alongside the captain and the Suez Canal Authority.

Regardless, others have reported that the incident could have huge ramifications for global trade. “The inability of oil to transit a major chokepoint, even temporarily, can lead to substantial supply delays and higher shipping costs, resulting in higher world energy prices,” said the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In shipping industry resources cited by Reuters, more than 20 oil tankers were affected by the disruptions. Additionally, Sayegh added that in delaying a vessel within the Suez anchorage, ship owners lose roughly $60,000 per day or $3,000-4,000 per hour.


Tagged categories: Accidents; AF; AS; China; EU; Europe; India; Middle East; Program/Project Management; Ships and vessels; Shipyards; Transportation

Comment from Mark Taylor, (3/26/2021, 8:45 AM)

Perfect mess. Gas to $8/gallon.

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