On Saturday, an international team launched an operation to remove a giant container ship that was stuck at the Suez Canal and had resulted in a major traffic jam on one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.
The incident happened last Tuesday, when the Ever Given, a shipping vessel owned by the Japanese firm Shoei Kisen KK accidentally hit the sandy banks of the Suez Canal. The incident had caused a major blockage to the southern entrance of the single lane channel.
Overnight, the incident has turned into a logistical nightmare as more than 200 ships were unable to pass through the canal. To make matters worse, officials also expect that the traffic will become heavier as 100 more vessels are expected to dock within the next few days.
To top it all off, the delay had also cost insurance companies an estimated $100 to $200 million.
Aside from the financial and logistical impact of the accident, experts are also concerned that a single blockage incident will have a massive effect on the international oil industry. That’s because the Suez Canal plays a crucial role in the global economy as 10 percent of the world trade passes through its lanes.
In a statement, analyst Toril Bosoni claimed that while there is still a steady supply of oil, she feared that the backlog of vessels might have a potentially disruptive effect on the global oil industry. In fact, other countries such as Singapore are already preparing for the possible price hike as a result of the delays.
In response, Shoei Kisen President Yukito Higaki announced that they have already sought the help of an international team to remove the shipping vessel. Currently, the company president claimed that Japan’s Nippon, Dutch shipping firm Boskalis, and Taiwan-based Evergreen Group have teamed up to dislodge the ship.
Higaki added that the team had deployed 10 tugboats, as well as a suction dredger and an excavator to remove thousands of cubic feet of sand. Their initial plan was to dredge the bank which will help the ship to float again. Unfortunately, the team said that their initial efforts failed.
Right now, Higaki shared that they are considering the option of removing the containers from the vessel. However, he also recognized that removing weight off the ship is an extremely difficult task. The company president also apologized for the inconvenience, “we apologize for blocking the traffic and causing tremendous trouble and worry to many people, including the involved parties,” he said.
Egyptian officials had since sought international assistance to dislodge the ship. According to Lt. Gen. Osama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority, he believed that removing the ship required a “complex technical operation.” The SCA also suggested that it might take two to three days to finally remove Ever Given from the banks. To control the situation, authorities issued a temporary suspension of traffic while shipping companies were forced to re-route their vessels.
U.S. President Joe Biden had since offered technical help to resolve the situation. “We have equipment and capacity that most countries don’t have and we’re seeing what we can do and what help we can be,” Biden said.
According to the authorities, they believed that strong winds had caused Ever Given to accidentally hit the bank. However, officials have yet to provide additional information regarding the incident.
What’s even more interesting is that this is not the first time that Ever Given was involved in an accident. In 2019, the vessel had reportedly crashed into a small ferry on the Elbe River in Hamburg. While there were no reported injuries, the ship had sustained substantial damage.
Hamburg authorities had since launched an investigation to look into the ship’s captain. However, the investigation was later called off because of the lack of evidence.