By Yusri Mohamed, Gavin Maguire and Florence Tan
ISMAILIA, Egypt (Reuters) – The Suez Canal suspended traffic on Thursday when an attempt to dislodge a 400 m (430 yard) container ship blocked waterways to continue on Tuesday, with eight ships the active tug to straighten the ship.
The Ever Given, almost the Empire State Building, ran diagonally on a single stretch of the southern canal on Tuesday morning after losing its ability to steer between high winds and a dust storm.
It currently blocks two-way shipping through one of the busiest shipping channels in the world for goods, oil, grain and other products connecting Asia and Europe.
Eight tugboats, the largest of which have a towing capacity of 160 tons, attempted to push and pull the Ever Given off the canal, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said in a statement.
Thirteen ships sailed south from Port Said in a train on Wednesday moored in the Bitter Lakes waiting area until navigation could be resumed, it said.
Peter Berdowski, CEO of Dutch company Boskalis, which is trying to free the ship, said it’s too early to say how long the job might take.
Berdowski told the Dutch TV show “Nieuwsuur”.
He said the bow and stern were raised from the sides of the canal.
“It’s like a giant whale. It’s a huge weight in the sand. We may have to work with the combination of reducing weight by removing tanks, oil and water from ships. , tugboat and sand dredging. “
PICTURE: Liberation of a container ship stuck in the Suez Canal – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/rlgvdbqddvo/EverGivenMarch252021.png
Several dozen ships, including other large container ships, oil and gas tankers, and bulk grain carriers have backed off at either end of the canal to create one of the worst congestion ever seen in years. .
Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), technical director of Ever Given, said the dredgers were working to clear the sand and mud around the blocked vessel while the tugboat combined with the Ever Given winch was working to move it.
Marine services company GAC issued a statement to customers overnight saying that attempts to free the ship with tugboats continued, but the ship’s sheer size and wind conditions “are hindering operation”. .
Japanese ship owner Shoei Kisen apologized for the incident and said it was “extremely difficult” to free the ship heading to Europe from China and it is not clear when the ship will float again.
The ship’s GPS signal showed only slight changes in its position over the past 24 hours.
About 30% of the world’s container volume transits the 193 km (120 miles) of the Suez Canal daily, and about 12% of global trade of all goods.
IMAGE: Train tracking data showing massive congestion of ships under construction on the sides of Ever Given – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/azgvodygepd/ShippingJamMarch25.png
Shipping experts say that if the congestion is unlikely to be cleared within the next 24-48 hours, some shipping lines may be forced to operate vessels around the southern tip of Africa, extending the length of the block. one week for the journey.
Consulting firm Wood Mackenzie said the biggest impact was on container shipping, but a total of 16 tankers of crude and loaded product were passing through the canal and are currently delayed due to the problem.
The capacity of tankers is up to 870,000 tons of crude oil and 670,000 tons of clean petroleum products such as gasoline, naphtha and diesel.