One of the largest container ships in the world is proving to be an obstacle to its peers. The ship, Ever Given has become wedged in the famous and busy Suez Canal.
As an important water gateway, the blockade is proving costly with more than 300 ships stuck on both sides of the ship. Close to 12% percent of global production is moved through the 193 km long canal, as it is the shortest route between Asia and Europe. This translates to about $9.6 billion worth of goods per day. Egypt alone is losing $14 million in revenue for each day the ship remains stuck.
How the Ever Given ended up in its current position has not been confirmed. Initial reports suggested that the vessel was pushed by powerful winds. The authority of the canal however claims technical or human errors might have contributed.
Yukito Higaki, the president of the company operating the vessel (Shoei Kisen) has tendered an apology for the blockade and outlined the effort to move the ship. His company has deployed 10 tugboats to the scene.
Efforts to free the 400m long ship (more than thrice the length of a soccer field), 200,000 tonne behemoth have not been met with success. About 20,000 tonnes of sand has been moved from the space surrounding the ship in the process. 9,000 tonnes of water from the ship’s ballast have also been drained.
Shoei Kisen has considered offloading the containers to reduce the weight of the ship. However, it is a very difficult process which the company hopes it never has to do. There are about 20,000 containers on board, which will require 300 barges to move. Help has been sought from Boskalis, a Dutch company that has expertise in salvaging vessels.
More help has been offered on the international scene. The president of the United States, Joe Biden offered to deploy heavy-duty equipment, saying: “We have equipment and capacity that most countries don’t have and we’re seeing what we can do and what help we can be.”
While some ships have been diverting from the route, including another ship from Shoei Kisen, more than 100 vessels are still headed for the canal. Experts have warned that the blockade could last weeks and have impact on industries that rely on parts or supplies that pass through the canal.