Evergreen’s Ever Given
paralyses the Suez Canal
Six days after navigation through the Suez Canal was blocked, following international efforts to find a rapid solution, having caused queues of 400 ships at both entrances to the Canal, a nightmare for world trade has ended: Evergreen’s Ever Given has finally re-started her engines.
The container ship IMO 9811000, class 2018, flying the Panamanian flag, departed around 3pm on Monday 29th March, accompanied by the sound of the surrounding boat sirens testifying the success of the operations.
The container ship is 400 metres long, 59 metres wide and weighs 200,000 tons, not including the weight of the 20,000 containers on board. It ran aground on 23rd March for reasons that are still unclear. From initial reconstructions, it appears that the ship was engulfed by a sand and windstorm, causing it to veer and run aground, with its bow sinking into the sand on one side of the Canal’s banks.
Human error has not been excluded, even though at the ship’s helm were two highly experienced Commanders from the Suez Canal, familiar with this stretch of water, used to navigating these types of large vessels such as the Ever Given and who, on an almost daily basis, navigate these vessels through the Canal.
The first and second attempts carried out during the night between the 28th – 29th March to free that stranded ship failed due to the low water level. In fact, the Suez Canal, unlike the Panama Canal, is not regulated by locks, which in case of an emergency, given its catchment reservoir, would have significantly contributed to freeing the ship, allowing the water level to be raised.
Following the first unsuccessful attempts, it was estimated that it could take any number of weeks to free the Suez Canal, which is a crucial trade lane linking the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. Approximately 12% of all global freight passes through the Canal, therefore the economic repercussions of the ship’s involuntary blockade became an immediate consequence; an increase in the price of crude oil, leading a chain reaction to increases in the prices of various commodities and also in shipment costs.
Faced with these forecasts, many maritime companies ordered their ships to continue their route by circumnavigating the African continent. The routing adds roughly 6,000 miles to a journey and somewhere in the region of an additional $300,000,000 in fuel costs for a super-tanker delivering oil from the Middle East to Europe, increasing further for vessels sailing from North America or Asia.
The removal of loaded cargo containers was a proposed as an alternative solution, in order to make de-ballasting more effective. However, this option would have lengthened the recovery timescale, increased costs enormously and would have probably required the use of cargo transport helicopters.
The Egyptian Canal Authority and Ever Given’s owner hired the super-experts from SMIT Salvage, a world famous salvage company that specialises in near impossible missions. Their reputation was forged evacuating and towing large cargo ships during the worst storms in history, recovering the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk that sank in 2000, and emptying the tanks of the stranded Concordia that ran aground off the Island of Giglio in 2012. Other cargo tugs, including the Italian tug Carlo Magno, also came to the rescue.
Following days of attempts, during the afternoon of 29th March, the manoeuvres to free the ship succeeded. The high tide peak due to the full moon, aided by the army of tugs finally freed the bow of the ship from the Canal’s sandbanks. The ship’s owner officially announced that “the Ever Given is sailing with her own engines at a speed of 1.5 knots”. The tug and dredger crews rejoiced. Commercial traffic in the area can resume.