Tom Swarbrick 10pm - 1am
Suez Canal: Ship could be freed using the tide
27 March 2021, 12:36 | Updated: 27 March 2021, 18:22
A massive shipping container which has entered the fifth day of being trapped across the Suez Canal could be freed using the tide, as the company which operates the vessel apologised.
The Ever Given, owned by Japanese firm Shoei Kisen KK, got wedged on Tuesday in a single-lane stretch of the canal, north of the southern entrance near the city of Suez.
Shoei Kisen president Yukito Higaki said 10 tugboats were deployed and workers were dredging the banks and sea floor near the vessel's bow to try to get it afloat again as the high tide starts to go out.
"We apologise for blocking the traffic and causing the tremendous trouble and worry to many people, including the involved parties," he told a news conference at the company headquarters in Imabari, western Japan, on Friday.
Shoei Kisen said the company has considered removing its containers to get the weight off the vessel, but it is a very difficult operation.
The company said it may still consider that option if the ongoing refloating efforts fail.
A team from Boskalis, a Dutch firm specialising in salvaging, was working with the canal authority using tugboats and a specialized suction dredger at the port side of the cargo ship's bow.
Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, said the ship was like an "enormous beached whale" and warned it could take weeks to get it free.
He told Dutch media: "We can't exclude it might take weeks, depending on the situation.
"It's an enormous weight on the sand. We might have to work with a combination of reducing the weight by removing containers, oil and water from the ship, tug boats and dredging of sand."
To put into context just how massive the 400m-long Ever Given is, the Shard in London comparably stands at a measly 310m.
The canal authority said on Thursday between 15,000 to 20,000 cubic meters (530,000 to 706,000 cubic feet) of sand will need to be removed to reach a depth of 12 to 16 meters.
Once that is done the ship should be able to float freely.
Around 12% of the world's trade passes through the waterway, opened in 1869, and figures show around 52 ships a day go through.
Bloomberg estimates the blockage is halting around $9.6 billion worth of shipping traffic.
An initial investigation showed the vessel ran aground due to strong winds and ruled out mechanical or engine failure, the company said.
The maritime traffic jam grew to more than 200 vessels on Friday outside the Suez Canal and some vessels began changing course. More than 100 ships were still en route to the waterway, according to the data firm Refinitiv.