By: Scott Way
(*UPDATE* Monday March 29th, 10:30 EST- the Ever Given has been partially refloated and is now sitting straight in the canal. However, the bow remains stuck and there is no definitive ETA on when the ship will be towed out of the canal.) A massive container ship remains wedged in Egypt's Suez Canal, grinding commercial traffic to a halt in one of the world's busiest waterways. The vessel has been stuck since Tuesday and risks further delaying the global shipping system already struggling with disruptions from to the coronavirus pandemic.
The vessel, the 400m (1300 ft) Ever Given, is a commercial container ship owned by Evergreen Marine Corp and based out of Panama. It was traveling through the midpoint of the Suez on Tuesday when a possible power failure caused the boat to angle sideways during strong winds and get snagged against the muddy shoreline.
Tugboats struggled throughout Wednesday to pull the vessel off the bank while ships began piling up to the north and south waiting to pass through. By Wednesday afternoon more than 30 vessels anchored in Great Bitter Lake midway on the canal, while another 40 idled in the Mediterranean near Port Said, plus another 30 at Suez in the Red Sea. By Thursday, more than 200 ships are now awaiting passage. That group includes seven vessels carrying roughly 5 million barrels of crude oil. The Suez Canal typically coordinates the passage of about 50 ships per day accounting for roughly $9.5 billion in daily global shipments.
The Suez is situated in northeastern Egypt connects the Mediterranean in the north with the Red Sea in the South, and serves as the passageway for 10% of the world's material goods. Any lengthy delay in traffic can cause global backlogs, which will seemingly be the case until the Ever Given is pulled free.
“The Suez Canal will not spare any efforts to ensure the restoration of navigation and to serve the movement of global trade,” vowed Lt. Gen. Ossama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority in an interview with AP News.
You can follow the progress, or lack thereof, in realtime using Vessel Finder. As you can see on the GPS map, and in the photo below, a major backlog of commercial vessels is currently waiting to get through.
Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, who manage the Ever Given, told AP News all 20 members of the crew were safe and that there had been “no reports of injuries or pollution.” In a public statement the company also denied the ship ever lost power.
Evergreen Marine Corp., the owners of the vessel, corroborated Bernhard Shulte's claim the boat didn't lose power and believe the Ever Given was overcome by strong winds as it entered the canal from the Red Sea. The region was hit with winds up to 50 km/h on Tuesday, but it remains unclear how moderate winds could shift the fully loaded 220,000 ton vessel so drastically.
Despite the cause of the mishap, a single backhoe and a pair of tugboats were working diligently Thursday to free the boat and get the global economy back up to speed.
You can see video of the hopelessly stuck vessel below via Sky News below: