ISMAILIA, Egypt, March 30, 2021 (AFP) – Vessels anchored for nearly every week began moving Monday through the Suez Canal after a grounded mega-ship was unwedged, sparking relief during a country that depends heavily on the worldwide trade artery.
Easing tailbacks to the north and south, 113 ships will navigate the narrow passage by 0600 GMT on Tuesday, Suez Canal Authority chief Osama Rabie told reporters within the evening.
He praised the duration of the salvage operation on the MV Ever Given as “record-breaking”, claiming it might have taken three months anywhere else within the world.
Canal services provider Leth Agencies said during a tweet that the 400-meter vessel had been “safely escorted to Great Bitter Lake” by the authority, which noted it had been now “anchored” before an investigation, beyond the trail of other container ships.
“The relief is palpable that we won’t see a long-term closure of what's a crucial trade route,” said analyst Michael Hewson at CMC Markets UK.
In the hours before the ship was dislodged, the tailbacks had reached 425 vessels, and therefore the canal authority estimates it'll take over three days to finish the congestion.
Maritime data company Lloyd’s List said the blockage had delayed an estimated $9.6 billion worth of cargo every day between Asia and Europe, as quite 10 percent of world trade normally passes through the canal.
– ‘A very tight jam’ –
In the small canal-side village of Manshiyet al-Rougoula, residents watched in amazement because the immense container ship left the sandy bank.
A father and his family climbed to the roof of their red brick house to urge a far better deem the ship — laden with a minimum of nine levels of huge containers — slowly gone by .
“We are happy to ascertain the boat move (and) thank God,” said one resident who asked to not be named.
A former SCA chairman, Mohab Mamish, expressed pride within the operation, telling AFP: “I am well and truly overjoyed … We were ready to get out of a really tight jam.”
On social media too, Egyptians greeted the news with jubilation and shared a flurry of memes, including a video montage of a person representing Egypt triumphantly carrying the ship on his shoulders, to applause from the planet.
Ahmed Abbas, a Suez Canal employee, shared live footage from the scene on his Facebook account, exclaiming: “Praise be to God, the vessel is finally out! Well done to the SCA boys!”
Egypt has lost some $12-15 million in transit revenues every day that the ship was stuck, consistent with Rabie. Dutch salvage company Boskalis said its “team of experts” had worked in “close collaboration” with the canal authority.
The operation administered under time pressure and “the watchful eye of the world”, required 13 tug boats, said Boskalis CEO Peter Berdowski.
– ‘Enormous complexity’ –
The freed vessel will undergo “an inspection of its seaworthiness”, said Taiwanese company Evergreen, the ship’s operator.
“The outcome of that inspection will determine whether the ship can resume its scheduled service.”
The stern was dislodged early Monday, sparking immediate praise from Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whilst Boskalis initially warned that the bow would prove harder to unwedge.
“Today, Egyptians are successful in putting to an end the crisis of the stranded ship within the Suez Canal, despite the big complexity surrounding the method,” Sisi said.
Salvage crews have worked round the clock since the accident which was blamed on high winds and poor visibility during a sandstorm, although the canal authority also cited the likelihood of human or technical error.
Rescue teams had focused on efforts to get rid of sand around the ship, which was dredged up to a depth of 18 meters (59 feet).
The crisis forced companies to settle on between waiting or rerouting vessels around the southern tip of Africa, which adds 9,000 kilometers (5,500 miles) and over every week or visit the trip between Asia and Europe.