| 28 May 2024, Tuesday |

Egypt’s Suez Canal calls elite salvagers

An elite team is preparing to tackle the challenge of freeing the huge container vessel that is blocking the Suez Canal   as a backlog of ships built up for a third day in what is arguably the world’s most important waterway

Tugs and diggers managed to partially refloat the vessel on Wednesday but failed to budge it as dredgers were still trying to loosen the ship before any attempt to pull it, the vessel’s manager said.

Still, the best chance for returning shipping to normal may not come until Sunday or Monday, when the tide will reach a high, according to Nick Sloane, the salvage master responsible for refloating the Costa Concordia, the cruise ship that capsized off the coast of Italy in 2012.

Mr Sloane works as the senior salvage master for Resolve Marine Group in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

At about 400 metres long and weighing in at 200,000 tonnes, the Ever Given’s sheer size is overwhelming efforts to dig it out.

A huge yellow excavator, about twice as tall as its driver, looked like a child’s toy parked next to the ship’s bow.

The struggle to dislodge the ship is now falling to Smit Salvage, a Dutch company whose employees go from one emergency to the next, often saving vessels during violent storms.

Japan’s Nippon Salvage Co has been hired to assist in the refloating, a source said.

This ship is so heavy that the salvage teams may have to lighten it by removing, for example, the ballast water, which helps keep ships steady when they are at sea.

“Dislodging a grounded ultra-large container ship in the Suez Canal will be challenging due to the confined nature of the canal’s shipping channel,” said Rockford Weitz, director of the Fletcher Maritime Studies Programme at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

“This presents additional complications in comparison to a grounding on a reef or shoal.”

The Suez Canal Authority has not commented on the work or given any indication of when traffic could resume.