Suez Canal rescue crews alternated between dredging and towing on Sunday to dislodge a huge container ship blocking the busy waterway, while two sources said the efforts were complicated by rocks under the ship’s bow .
Dredgers working to dislodge the stranded vessel have so far moved 27,000 cubic meters of sand, to a depth of 18 meters, and efforts would continue around the clock depending on wind and tidal conditions, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) in a statement.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has ordered preparations for the eventual removal of part of the ship’s cargo to help refloat it, SCA Chairman Osama Rabie told Extra News.
Any operation to lighten the load on the ship would not begin until Monday, an SCA source said.
The 400-meter (440-yard) long Ever Given – a Panamanian-flagged Japanese vessel that carries cargo between Asia and Europe – stuck diagonally over a southern section of the canal in high winds there has more than five days, stopping. maritime traffic on one of the busiest waterways in the world.
On Sunday, more than 300 boats were waiting to transit through the canal, including dozens of container ships, bulk carriers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) ships.
“There are positive indicators from yesterday and the day before,” Rabie told Egyptian public television.
“The rudder was not moving and it is now moving, the propeller is working now, there was no water under the bow, and now there is water below, and yesterday there was a four meter deflection forward and stern. “
However, two SCA sources told Reuters news agency that a mass of rock was found in the bow of the ship, complicating rescue efforts.
Complex and long process
Rescuers from SCA and a team from Dutch company Smit Salvage assessed whether some of Ever Given’s 18,300 containers will need to be crane-lifted in order to refloat them.
Removing the containers from the ship would likely add even more days to the canal’s closure, which authorities are desperately trying to avoid. It would also require a crane and other equipment that has not yet arrived.
Experts have warned that such a process could be complex and lengthy.
“We are dividing the day into two halves, 12 hours for dredges and 12 hours for tugs, because not all times are suitable for tugs due to the tide,” Rabie said, adding that 14 tugs were underway. deployment.
Later Sunday, Rabie said SCA was considering reductions for vessels affected by the blockage.
He also told Al Arabiya TV that the channel was losing $ 13-14 million in revenue per day after traffic was stopped due to the stranded ship and that 369 ships were waiting to transit through the channel.
About 15 percent of global maritime traffic passes through the Suez Canal.
Tanker shipping rates nearly doubled after the ship failed, and the lockdown disrupted global supply chains, threatening costly delays for businesses already facing COVID-19 restrictions.
Syria has started rationing fuel distribution in the war-ravaged country due to problems with delayed shipments due to the blockage.
Spencer Welch, vice president of petroleum markets and downstream consulting at IHS Markit, told Al Jazeera that some refineries typically have about a week of crude reserve.
“If we take an oil refinery in the Mediterranean that uses crude oil from the Middle East, that refinery will typically keep about seven days of reserve crude in a tank for delays. It is now estimated that it could take two weeks to clear the blockage of the Suez Canal.
If the blockage continues, shippers may decide to reroute their cargoes around the Cape of Good Hope, adding around two weeks to additional travel and fuel costs.
Mediterranean Shipping Co, the world’s second-largest shipping company, said it had already hijacked at least 11 ships around the African Cape of Good Hope to avoid the channel. He backed up two other vessels and said he expected “missed starts as a result of this incident”.