Suez Canal chief warns crashed freighter may need to be offloaded

The head of the Suez Canal Authority has warned that there is no timetable to release the 220,000-ton container ship that has blocked one of the main arteries for world trade, with efforts likely to end in move to unloading its cargo if it cannot be refloated in the coming days.

Efforts to free the Ever Given continued on Saturday, with rescue experts deploying dredgers and high-powered tugs, but Osama Rabie, who heads the authority, said they may have thousands of containers on board. .

Shipping and rescue experts have warned that moving to unload containers from the ship would likely delay the reopening of the canal by several weeks, causing severe supply chain disruptions for everything from auto parts to products such as crude oil. to children’s toys.

About 12 percent of all maritime trade passes through the Suez Canal, which is the fastest route between Europe and Asia. Dozens of container ships and tankers have already started rerouting around Africa, a route that will add more than a week to journey times, and some ships have been ordered to unload their cargoes at nearby ports .

Rabie said there was some hope on Friday as the ship, which is housed diagonally on both sides of the canal, showed signs of “responding” to the dredging efforts and the multiple tugs that were deployed to try to pull it. The stern and rudder had moved, he said.

But he added that low tides had thwarted the latest efforts.

On Friday, the White House said that The United States was offering aid to Egyptian authorities to help free the ship, a sign that concerns about the canal closure have reached the highest levels of government internationally.

But it’s unclear what additional help the United States could provide, with international rescue companies already in Egypt.

The logistics of unloading 40ft containers, which can weigh around 30 tonnes when full, from a height of nearly 60m is far from straightforward, with the accident occurring far from any port infrastructure. .

Peter Berdowski, managing director of Boskalis – which owns Smit Salvage who worked to free the ship – said on Friday evening that he still hoped the ship could be released early next week “but everything will have to work out exactly. just for that “.

“The bow is really stuck in the sandy clay, but the stern has not been fully pushed into the clay, which is positive,” Berdowski told Dutch TV show Nieuwsuur on Friday, according to Reuters.

He added that more heavy tugs were due to arrive this weekend.

“We hope that a combination of the tugs, the sand dredging at the bow and a high tide will allow us to free the vessel,” said Berdowski.

Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world’s second-largest shipping group, said on Saturday the world was facing “one of the biggest disruptions to global trade in recent years” and warned that customers should expect a ” deterioration of supply chain reliability issues over the coming months. Even though the channel could be unblocked quickly.

“Sailing around the Cape of Good Hope is an option on some routes, while in other cases it’s more about working closely with our customers to see what other solutions we can design,” Caroline said. Becquart, Senior Vice President of MSC.

“Unfortunately, even when the canal reopens for the huge backlog of ships waiting at anchor, it will lead to an increase in arrivals at some ports and we could experience further congestion issues.

Rabie said the number of ships waiting to pass through the canal has risen to around 320.

Lloyd’s List estimates that more than $ 10 billion a day in cargo has been delayed at the northern and southern entrances to the canal since Ever Given was stranded on Tuesday.

Rabie said Egypt was losing up to $ 14 million a day in channel fees.

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