Suez Canal: “human error” could be involved

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A “human error” could be at the origin of the grounding of the container ship in the Suez Canal, affirmed Saturday Ossama Rabie, the head of the Egyptian Suez Canal Authority (SCA). Efforts are increasing to refloat the ship blocking this seaway.

The Ever Given, a container ship weighing more than 220,000 tonnes and 400 meters long, has been stuck since Tuesday in the south of the canal, a few kilometers from the city of Suez. It blocks this strategic route which sees pass around 10% of international maritime trade, according to experts. Some 300 boats are currently stuck at both ends of the canal connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.

Read also: The spectacular blockage of the Suez Canal by the stuck 220,000-tonne vessel considerably hinders maritime transport

While high winds combined with a sandstorm were first blamed for the incident, he said weather conditions were not the only reason for the grounding. “Other errors, human or technical, could also come into play”, affirmed Ossama Rabie during a press conference.

Significant delays

The lockdown causes significant delays in deliveries of oil and other products, with a knock-on effect on oil prices, which rose on Friday. Ossama Rabie estimated that Egypt was losing between $ 12 and $ 14 million for each day the canal was closed, while the specialist magazine Lloyd’s list estimates that the stranded container ship blocks the equivalent of around 9.6 each day. billion dollars in goods.

Efforts have been increasing since Wednesday to bail out the juggernaut. Excavators are digging the bank and dredges have been sucking the sand under the ship since Friday, to facilitate the work of the tugs.

“We can finish today or tomorrow, depending on how the ship reacts to the tides. We have put in place other emergency scenarios, ”added Mr. Rabie.

Days or weeks

The parent company of the Dutch company commissioned by the operator of the ship for the refloating of the Ever Given has for its part mentioned a possible bailout “early next week”.

If this is not enough, it will be necessary to proceed with the removal of containers to lighten the ship, warned Peter Berdowski, the executive director of Royal Boskalis, the parent company of Smit Salvage, questioned on Dutch public television.

An option which would result in “a very long delay” for the resumption of traffic, according to Nick Sloane, renowned specialist in the refloating of ships.

“The fastest would be to use the dredges and clear the sand (…) to allow the ship to float again”, estimates the one who was in charge of the rescue of the Costa Concordia, which was wrecked in 2012 off the coast. of Tuscany. “It’s not a quick operation,” he adds. “It’s going to take weeks, not days.”

“Stuck in the bank”

Because the Ever Given “is not only stranded on the sand on the surface, it is also stuck in the bank”, explained to AFP Plamen Natzkoff, expert at VesselsValue.

The shipowner was more confident. Yukito Higaki, president of the Japanese company Shoei Kisen, said on Friday that he hoped for a release from the ship on Saturday evening, according to the Japanese press. A bailout on Friday failed.

A significant high tide forecast “Sunday evening” could “be of great help,” said Plamen Natzkoff. “If they don’t manage to unlock it during this high tide, the next one won’t take place for two weeks.”

Shipping giant Maersk and Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd said on Thursday they plan to divert their ships and pass through the Cape of Good Hope, a 9,000-kilometer detour and at least seven additional days around the mainland African. Last year nearly 19,000 ships passed through the canal, according to the SCA, an average of 51.5 ships per day.

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