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World

Mega-ship in Suez Canal moved '80%' in right direction

  • The MV Ever Given, longer than four football fields, became wedged diagonally across the canal during a sandstorm last Tuesday, strangling world supply chains.
  • Egypt is losing some $12-14 million in revenue from the canal for each day it is closed, Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chief Osama Rabie said.
Updated 29 Mar 2021

The enormous container ship blocking the Suez Canal for almost a week has been turned 80 percent in the right direction, officials said Monday, raising hopes the vital trade route could soon be clear.

But its owner said that while the giant ship "has turned", it was still not fully free.

The MV Ever Given, longer than four football fields, became wedged diagonally across the canal during a sandstorm last Tuesday, strangling world supply chains.

Egypt is losing some $12-14 million in revenue from the canal for each day it is closed, Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chief Osama Rabie said.

Maritime data company Lloyd's List says the blockage is holding up an estimated $9.6 billion worth of cargo each day between Asia and Europe, with the tailback of ships reaching 425 at either end of the canal, in the Mediterranean and Red Sea.

Tug boat flotilla

Once the 200,000-tonne ship is fully afloat, it will take around three and a half days to clear the traffic jam of ships, SCA chief Osama Rabie said Monday, praising rescue efforts with tugs that had succeeded in shifting the stern of the ship.

"The position of the ship has been reorientated 80 percent in the right direction," Rabie said in a statement.

"The stern... moved to 102 metres (335 feet) from the shore," compared to its position four metres from the bank previously.

A fresh effort to refloat it will start on the next high tide.

The SCA statement said that the refloating process "will resume when water flow increases again from 11:30 am (0930 GMT)... in order to completely refloat the vessel, so as to reposition it in the middle of the waterway."

An official from the ship's owners, Shoei Kisen, said while the Ever Given "has turned" it "is not afloat" at this stage.

The ship had been "stuck at an angle of 30 degrees towards the canal, but that has eased" with the help of a flotilla of tug boats, said the official.

"A total of 11 tug boats have been pulling Ever Given since this morning," the official said, adding that while there was damage sustained by the ship on its bow when it got stuck, "no new damage has been reported".

A canal official, who requested anonymity, said that the team on the ground had started technical checks, and were reassured that the ship's motor was working.

Salvage crews have been working around the clock.

They had focussed on efforts to remove sand around the ship, with 27,000 cubic metres (over 950,000 cubic feet) cleared at a depth of 18 metres (59 feet), SCA spokesman George Safwat said Sunday.

On Sunday evening a shipping company, Leth agencies, had said Egyptian authorities had decided more tugboats were needed to shift the vessel.

The Dutch-flagged Alp Guard arrived to join the mission on Sunday evening, while Italy's Carlo Magno arrived Monday morning.

Knock-on effects

The crisis has forced companies to choose between waiting or rerouting vessels around Africa, which adds a huge fuel bill, 9,000 kilometres (5,500 miles) and over a week of travel to the trip between Asia and Europe.

Russia offered assistance Sunday, following other countries including the United States that have made similar offers.

In a sign of the knock-on effects from the Suez blockage, authorities in war-wracked Syria said the crisis had hit its fuel imports from Iran and forced it to ration already scarce supplies.

Romania's animal health agency said 11 ships carrying livestock out of the country were also impacted, while the charity Animals International warned of a potential "tragedy" affecting some 130,000 animals.

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