The cargo ship wedged in the Suez Canal and blocking international shipping was partially refloated early Monday morning after five days of earth-moving to free it from the canal banks. While this is good news, the work is not yet done.
Update Monday, March 29, 2021 9:40 a.m.: The Ever Given is currently on its way to the Great Bitter Lake, according to CNBC, a saltwater holding site within the Suez Canal system. The Ever Given will undergo inspection in the lake as normal canal traffic resumes.
Salvage operators had labored around the clock in an effort to free the immense cargo ship, however it was nature that eventually gave crews a helping hand. From the New York Times:
Salvage teams, working on both land and water for five days and nights, were ultimately assisted by forces more powerful than any machine rushed to the scene: the moon and the tides.
As water levels swelled overnight, the hours spent digging and excavating millions of tons of earth around the Ever Given paid off as the ship slowly regained buoyancy, according to officials.
While shipping officials and the Egyptian authorities cautioned that the complicated operation was still underway, they expressed increasing confidence the ship would soon be completely free.
Check out the happy ships now able to travel through the canal in real time via Vesselfinder.com
The president of Egypt, President Abdel Fattah, tweeted his excitement to the world.
“Egyptians have succeeded today in ending the crisis of the stuck ship in the Suez Canal despite the great complexities surrounding this situation in every aspect.”
The ship only moved about 100 feet, or two degrees, but tugboat operators still celebrated the moment by blasting their horns. Peter Berdowski, the chief executive of Royal Boskalis Westminster, which is helping to free the Ever Given, is urging caution. Boskalis said the bulbous bow of the ship that has caused all the trouble is still firmly stuck.
“The ship is like a giant whale that we have to slide off the beach, back in the water,” he said early Monday. Pulling the stern lose, he said, was the easy part.
“We shouldn’t start cheering just yet,” he cautioned.
The Ever Given is one of the largest ships ever built, and the effort to free it from the canal is one of the most intensive in history, according to the Times. Even if crews do successfully free the Given, cleanup could take weeks. It took at least 11 tugboats to move the ship even the small amount officials achieved on Monday. It’s a delicate operation, one that becomes more delicate as the ship struggles under forces it was never designed to handled, from the Times:
With the Ever Given sagging in the middle, its bow and stern both caught in positions for which they were not designed, the hull is vulnerable to stress and cracks, according to experts. Just as every high tide brought hope the ship could be released, each low tide puts new stresses on the vessel.
The irony of huge container ships like the Given is that companies started building giant boats in order to avoid the Suez Canal, according to the Washington Post. When the canal closed for eight years in the 1960s, ships needed to take the extra time to round the Cape of Good Hope in the seas south of South Africa. Many ships are doing this now in order to avoid delays at the Suez Canal, adding weeks to their journey and burning fuel at a rate of more than $26,000 for every extra day of travel, the Times reports. In the meant time, billions in trade is being lost every day.
This story is developing and we will update throughout the day.