Suez officials hope massive container ship operational Saturday, can’t say when refloat will happen

Imagery of the Ever Given in the Suez Canal captured by the company’s WorldView-3 satellite on Saturday, March 27, 2021.
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The Suez Canal Authority hopes to have the massive ship blocking the canal back in operation by Saturday, but doesn’t know when the ship will refloat, Chairman Osama Rabie said at a press conference.

“Today, we managed to create a space with a depth of 18 meters and we believe we will be able to have the ship back into operation by today,” Rabie said.

“The soil we are working on is tough. Other negative factors were the low tide, and the strong winds in addition to the other factors which I mentioned earlier, including the weight, width and length of the stranded ship,” he added.

Rabie said that 9,000 metric tons of ballast water had been removed from the stranded ship, Ever Given, and that the vessel’s rudder and propeller had started working again.

The vessel, a 220,000-ton mega ship nearly a quarter-mile long with a 20,000 container capacity, ran aground while entering Egypt’s Suez Canal from the Red Sea.

Some reports have indicated strong winds contributed to the stranding. However, Rabie said winds were not the main factor and human or technical error may have played a role.

The ship has completely blocked the canal that is home to as much as 12% of the world’s seaborne trade and through which 50 container ships normally transit per day.

The shipping crisis, now in its fifth day, has added to anxieties over the global supply chain which had already been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Each day of blockage disrupts more than $9 billion worth of goods, according to Lloyd’s List, which translates to about $400 million per hour.

The owners of the massive ship blocking the Suez Canal on Friday said they aimed to refloat the vessel by Saturday night, hoping that a high tide and the further removal of sediment will finally dislodge it.

26 March 2021, Egypt, Suez: A boy observes two tugboats taking part in the refloating operation carried out to free the “Ever Given”.
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At a press conference Friday, Yukito Higaki, the president of Shoei Kisen which owns the Ever Given, said it was aiming to free the ship “tomorrow night Japan time,” according to a translation by the Nikkei news agency.

“We are continuing work to remove sediment as of now, with additional dredging tools,” he added, while apologizing for the “great trouble and concern” that the incident has caused.

Other media reports suggest at least two attempts will be made on Saturday to free the ship using the expected high tide. Reuters reported, citing sources, that work would begin at 2:30 p.m. local time.

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the Dutch technical manager working to free the Ever Given, said there have been no reports of pollution or cargo damage, and initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding.

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“All 25 crew are safe and accounted for and they remain in good health and spirits. All crew are Indian nationals and remain onboard,” BSM said in a statement.

“They are working closely with all parties involved to re-float the vessel. The hard work and tireless professionalism of the Master and crew is greatly appreciated.”

Some ship operators have already decided to re-route their vessels around Africa, anticipating that the Ever Given won’t be dislodged soon.

Oil and natural gas prices have risen due to the blockage, but some economists believe the impact will be short lived.

“While there may be a temporary boost to commodity prices as freight is disrupted and ships are forced to divert around Africa, we don’t foresee any long-lasting implications. Countries will source commodities from elsewhere or draw down stocks until the canal re-opens,” the commodities team at Capital Economics said in a research note on Friday.

Close up imagery of the dredging operations underway around the Ever Given in the Suez Canal, captured by the company’s WorldView-3 satellite on Saturday, March 27, 2021.
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—CNBC’s Natasha Turak, Pippa Stevens and Hannah Miao contributed to this article.

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