Two more tugboats join bid to free cargo ship stuck in Suez Canal

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As of early this morning, more than 320 ships were waiting to travel through the waterway.

TWO ADDITIONAL TUGBOATS are speeding to Egypt’s Suez Canal to aid efforts to free a container ship which has been wedged across the vital waterway for days.

The Ever Given, a Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned ship that carries cargo between Asia and Europe, got stuck in a single-lane stretch of the canal on Tuesday.

Since then, authorities have been unable to remove the vessel and traffic through the canal — valued at more than €7.6 billion a day – has been halted, further disrupting a global shipping network already strained by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dutch-flagged Alp Guard and the Italian-flagged Carlo Magno, called in to help tugboats already there, reached the Red Sea near the city of Suez early today, satellite data from MarineTraffic.com showed.

The tugboats will nudge the 400m long Ever Given as dredgers continue to vacuum up sand from underneath the vessel and mud caked to its port side, said Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, which manages the Ever Given.

The head of the Suez Canal Authority told journalists yesterday that strong winds were “not the only cause” for the Ever Given running aground, amid conflicting assessments.

Lieutenant General Osama Rabei said an investigation is ongoing but did not rule out human or technical error.

egypt-suez-canal-stuck-container-ship
The ship pictured yesterday.


Source: PA Images

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement maintains that “initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding”.

However, at least one initial report suggested a “blackout” struck the vessel, which was carrying some 20,000 containers at the time of the incident.

Lt Gen Rabei said he remains hopeful that dredging could free the ship without having to resort to removing its cargo, but added that “we are in a difficult situation, it’s a bad incident”.

Asked when they expect to free the vessel and reopen the canal, he said:

I can’t say because I do not know.
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Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd, the company that owns the vessel, said it is considering removing containers if other refloating efforts fail.

A prolonged closure of the crucial waterway would cause delays in the global shipment chain.

About 10% of world trade flows through the canal, with some 19,000 vessels passing through the last year, according to official figures.

The closure could affect oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East. Already, Syria has begun rationing the distribution of fuel in the war-torn country amid concerns of delays of shipments arriving amid the blockage.

As of early this morning, more than 320 ships were waiting to travel through the waterway, either to the Mediterranean or the Red Sea, according to canal services firm Leth Agencies.

Dozens of others still listed their destination as the canal, although shippers increasingly appear to be avoiding the passage.

Rescue vessels work at the site last night.

Rescue vessels work at the site last night.

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