Suez Canal reopens after giant stranded ship is freed

2021-03-30 at 06:09

Traffic has resumed in Egypt’s Suez Canal after a stranded container ship blocking it for nearly a week was finally freed by salvage crews.

Tug boats honked their horns in celebration as the 400m-long (1,300ft) Ever Given was dislodged on Monday with the help of dredgers.

Hundreds of ships are waiting to pass through the canal which links the Mediterranean to the Red Sea.

It is one of the world’s busiest trade routes.

Peter Berdowski, CEO of Dutch salvage company Boskalis, said the Ever Given had been refloated at 15:05 (13:05 GMT) on Monday, “thereby making free passage through the Suez Canal possible again”.

Egyptian officials say the backlog of ships waiting to transit through should be cleared in around three days, but experts believe the knock-on effect on global shipping could take weeks or even months to resolve.
Salvage teams had faced a daunting challenge after the 200,000-tonne ship ran aground last Tuesday morning in high winds and a sandstorm which reduced visibility.

A Dutch specialist team, SMIT, oversaw a flotilla of 13 tugs, small but powerful vessels that can shift large ships, as they tried to dislodge the Ever Given.

Dredgers were brought in and dug 30,000 cubic metres of mud and sand from beneath the ends of the ship.
Over the weekend, it was feared that some of the ship’s cargo of some 18,000 containers would have to be removed in order to lighten the load.

But high tides helped the tugs and dredgers in their work and early on Monday, the stern (rear of the ship) was freed and the great ship swung across the canal, to shouts of celebration. Hours later, the bow (front) too came unstuck, and the Ever Given was able to move out.

The vessel was towed to the Great Bitter Lake, which sits between two sections of the canal to the north of the salvage site, where it will undergo safety checks.

It will now undergo a full inspection at the Great Bitter Lake, the vessel’s technical managers, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, said.

It said there had been no reports of pollution or cargo damage, and initial investigations had ruled out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding last week.

The ship’s Indian crew of 25 remaining aboard the vessel are safe and in good health, BSM said, adding: “Their hard work and tireless professionalism are greatly appreciated.”

The ship’s containers are carrying a huge variety of items and the insured value of the cargo is believed to amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.