SUEZ, (Egypt): Egypt's Suez Canal chief said Saturday that "technical or human errors" could be behind the grounding of a huge container ship blocking the vital waterway, causing a backlog of over 300 vessels.
Osama Rabie, head of the Suez Canal Authority, told reporters in Suez that the ship could possibly be afloat again by Sunday night. The crisis has crippled global supply chains, forcing companies to consider the expensive option of re-routing vessels around the southern tip of Africa. Officials had previously blamed 40-knot gusts and a sandstorm that impeded visibility, but Rabie said Saturday that "strong winds and weather factors were not the main reasons for the ship's grounding -- there may have been technical or human errors". But he sounded an optimistic note when asked when the vessel might be freed. "We could finish today or tomorrow (Saturday or Sunday), depending on the ship's responsiveness" to tides, he said.
Billions of dollars-worth of cargo are now stalled at either end of the vital shipping lane linking Asia and Europe. That has forced cargo firms to decide whether to wait it out or take the longer, more expensive route around the Cape of Good Hope -- at the cost of up to 12 additional days at sea. Egypt is also losing some $12-14 million in revenue from the canal for each day it is closed, Rabie said.
The MV Ever Given, which is longer than four football fields, has been wedged diagonally across the span of the canal since Tuesday, blocking the waterway in both directions. The canal chief's timeline echoed comments Friday by the ship's owners, but the parent company of the salvage firm was less optimistic. The blockage has caused a huge backlog of ships at both the Red Sea and Mediterranean ends of the 193-kilometre (120-mile) long canal, causing major delays in the delivery of oil and other products.