Suez Canal Back In Business As Trapped Ship Is Freed
After nearly a week of being blocked by a stuck container ship, Egypt’s Suez Canal is finally back open for traffic to resume, with the massive ship having been freed by salvage crews.
There were cheers and honks of celebration as the 400-metre-long Ever Given was dislodged on Monday with the help of dredgers.
The Suez Canal is one of the world’s busiest trade routes, and hundreds of ships have been waiting to pass through the canal, which links the Mediterranean to the Red Sea.
The CEO of Dutch salvage company Boskalis, Peter Berdowski, said the Ever Given had been refloated at 15:05 (13:05 GMT) on Monday, “thereby making free passage through the Suez Canal possible again”.
The backlog of ships waiting to pass should be cleared in around three days, according to Egyptian officials. However, experts foresee the knock-on effect on global shipping taking weeks or even months to resolve.
A Dutch specialist team, SMIT, oversaw a flotilla of 13 tugboats – small but powerful vessels that can shift large ships – as they tried to dislodge the Ever Given.
There was worry over the weekend that some of the ship’s cargo would have to be removed in order to lighten the load – a monstrous task of about 18,000 containers.
But luck of the tides was in their favour; high water levels helped the tugs and dredgers in their work and early on Monday, the stern (rear of the ship) was freed and the giant ship swung across the canal. Hours later, the bow (front) was unwedged and the Ever Given was free to move out.
The vessel was towed to the Great Bitter Lake, which sits between two sections of the canal to the north of the salvage site, where it will undergo safety checks.
A marine source told Reuters news agency on Monday evening that ships were travelling southwards towards the Red Sea while canal services provider Leth Agencies said vessels had resumed transit from the Great Bitter Lake.
Some ships left, opting instead for a longer route around the southern tip of Africa.
Inevitably, cargoes will be late to their destinations and port congestion is anticipated for when they arrive. As a result, future sailing schedules have gone out the window.
In a further knock-on effect, the cost of shipping goods to Europe is expected to rise, and shipping group Maersk said the “ripple effects on global capacity and equipment” were significant.
“There’ll be an investigation, clearly, because this has had such a big impact and exactly what’s happened here, I think, will be debated for some time,” Marcus Baker, global head of marine and cargo at Marsh Inc, told Reuters.
“What do we do, going forward, to ensure it doesn’t happen again? Again, I would leave that to the competent authorities that are in Egypt to decide how they want to make sure that traffic transits safely through the canal … it’s in their interest to do that.”