Ship stuck in Suez Canal is floating again, says maritime service provider Inchcape
Engineers on Monday refloated the giant cargo ship blocking the crucial Suez Canal maritime route in Egypt, almost a week after the vessel got stuck in the waterway leading to disruptions in global shipping and trade, according to shipping services provider Inchcape.
Egypt’s Leth Agencies tweeted that the 400-metre long Ever Given made up of an all-Indian crew, had been “partially re-floated”.
The breakthrough in the rescue attempt was achieved after diggers removed 27,000 cubic meters of sand, going deep into the banks of the canal, reported The Bloomberg.
Osama Rabie, chairperson of the Suez Canal Authority that operates the waterway, confirmed that the salvage teams dislodged the bow of the ship from the eastern bank of the canal, according to The Washington Post. “It is good news,” Rabie told the newspaper. “We are not finished yet, but it has moved.”
Ship-tracking service VesselFinder, too, changed the ship’s status to under way on its website. However, satellite data from MarineTraffic.com showed the ship in the same position, surrounded by a squadron of tugboats with its bow stuck in the canal’s eastern bank.
Oil prices fall
The news of the ship partially refloating had an immediate impact on the oil market with Brent crude down by $1 per barrel to $63.67 [approximately Rs 4,618.62], according to Reuters. Shares of Taiwan-listed Evergreen Marine Corp, the vessel’s lessor, rose 3.3%. Shipping rates for oil product tankers nearly doubled after the ship became stranded.
It was not immediately clear how soon the traffic would resume on the waterway, which is the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia. About 15% of world shipping traffic transits the Suez Canal, which is a key source of foreign currency revenue for Egypt. The stoppage has costing the canal $14-$15 million a day.
It was also uncertain how long it will take to clear the logjam of more than 450 ships stuck, waiting and en route to the Suez. As per an analysis by the Bloomberg, the number of ships waiting to enter the Suez Canal now exceeds the size of the entire US Navy fleet, with 453 vessels queued up on Sunday, compared with around 100 at the start of the blockage.
Some ships already decided not to wait, U-turning to take the long way around the southern tip of Africa, in a journey that could add weeks to the journey and considerably increase the fuel consumption, according to The New York Times. Vessels packed with the world’s goods, including cars, oil, livestock and laptops, usually flow through the waterway.
The ship became jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal in high winds early on March 18, halting shipping traffic. Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the company that manages the ship Ever Given, had said that two pilots from Egypt’s canal authority were aboard the vessel to guide it when the grounding incident happened.
Since then authorities lodged a tedious excavation operation, with diggers working to remove parts of the canal’s bank and expand dredging close to the ship’s bow to a depth of 18 metres. It was a delicate mission as the crews are trying to move the ship without unbalancing it or breaking it apart.
A specialist tug registered in the Netherlands joined efforts to refloat the ship on Sunday evening, Reuters reported. Two additional tugboats, the Dutch-flagged Alp Guard and the Italian-flagged Carlo Magno, were also called in to help tugboats already there, according to AP.
‘Crew remain onboard is safe’
Meanwhile, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement in a statement said that all members of the crew aboard the containership were safe and accounted for, as they remain in “good health and spirits”, according to The Indian Express.
“All crew are Indian nationals and remain onboard,” the company added. “They are working closely with all parties involved to re-float the vessel. The hard work and tireless professionalism of the master and crew is greatly appreciated.”
Abhijeet Sangle, working president of the All India Seafarers and General Workers Union, told the newspaper that the 24 Indians were from different states, including Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. “Three are from Mumbai, and some from North India,” he added. He said that no family member of any of the seafarers had reached out for assistance.
India’s Director General of Shipping Amitabh Kumar also said that since the crew aboard the ship were safe, the intervention of the Directorate General of Shipping had not been sought in the matter.