A maritime traffic jam grew to more than 200 vessels Friday, disrupting global shipping outside the Suez Canal as as dredgers worked vehemently to free the giant container ship Ever Given that is stuck sideways in the waterway.
Anticipating delay, some vessels also began changing course.
One salvage expert said freeing the cargo ship, the Ever Given, could take up to a week in the best-case scenario and warned of possible structural problems on the vessel as it remains wedged.
Apparently, in preparation for further delays, the owners of the stuck vessel diverted a sister ship, the Ever Greet, to head around Africa instead, according to satellite data.
The Suez Canal Authority said it welcomed international offers of help, including one from the United States, although it did not say what was offered.
The suspension of traffic through the narrow channel linking Europe and Asia has deepened problems for shipping lines that were already facing disruption and delays in supplying retail goods to consumers.
The Ever Given, owned by the Japanese firm Shoei Kisen KK, got wedged Tuesday in a single-lane stretch of the canal, about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) north of the southern entrance, near the city of Suez.
Massive cargo ship stuck in Suez Canal continues to harm global shipping
A team from Boskalis, a Dutch firm specializing in salvaging, is working with the canal authority. using tugboats and a specialized suction dredger that is trying to remove sand and mud from around the port side of the bow. Egyptian authorities have prohibited media access to the site.
An attempt Friday to free it failed, said Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the technical manager of the Ever Given. Plans are in the works to pump water from interior spaces of the vessel, and two more tugs should arrive by Sunday, the company said.
An initial investigation showed the vessel ran aground due to strong winds and ruled out mechanical or engine failure as a cause, the company said. GAC, a global shipping and logistics company, had previously said the ship had experienced a power blackout, but it did not elaborate.
Bernhard Schulte said two canal pilots had been aboard the ship when it got stuck. Such an arrangement is customary, but the ship’s captain retains ultimate authority over the vessel, according to shipping experts.
In addition to the over 200 vessels waiting near the canal, more than 100 ships were en route to the waterway, according to the data firm Refinitiv.
Satellite and photos distributed by the canal authority show Ever Given’s bow touching the eastern wall, while its stern appeared lodged against the western wall.
The Ever Given was involved in an accident in northern Germany in 2019, when it ran into a small ferry moored on the Elbe River in Hamburg. No passengers were on the ferry at the time and there were no injuries, but it was seriously damaged.
Hamburg prosecutors opened an investigation of the Ever Given’s captain and pilot on suspicion of endangering shipping traffic, but shelved it in 2020 for lack of evidence, spokeswoman Liddy Oechtering told The Associated Press.
—With files from The Associated Press
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