| 28 May 2024, Tuesday |

Suez Canal: stranded ship ‘Ever Given’ could be free by Sunday

US Navy experts are expected in Egypt on Saturday to help efforts to dislodge the mega-vessel blocking traffic in the Suez Canal and disrupting global trade.

The Suez Canal Authority, the state-owned agency that manages the waterway, has welcomed the US assistance.

The authority said it “values the offer of the United States of America to contribute to efforts to dislodge the Ever Given”.

“We are tracking the situation very closely,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday, noting that the Suez Canal blockage was impacting on energy markets.

“As part of our active diplomatic dialogue with Egypt, we’ve offered US assistance to Egyptian authorities to help reopen the canal,” Ms Psaki said.

News of the arrival of the US team followed two failed attempts on Friday to refloat the 200,000-tonne, Panama-flagged Ever Given, according to the ship’s technical manager, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM)

Those efforts are now being significantly stepped up, according to BSM.

“The focus now is on dredging to remove sand and mud from around the port side of the vessel’s bow.

“In addition to the dredgers already on site, a specialised suction dredger is now with the vessel and will shortly begin work. This dredger can shift 2,000 cubic metres of material every hour,” BSM said.

This assessment could explain the anticipated re-floating of the Ever Given at some point on Saturday evening.

Canal authorities say nearly 20,000 cubic metres of sand must be dredged from around the ship in order for it to move.

If the new dredger begins operations effectively, this means the ship could be ready to move within 10 hours.

“Efforts to refloat the vessel require several contributing factors, most prominent of which are the direction of the wind and the tide. It’s a complex technical operation with its own set of measures and assessments,” said Admiral Osama Rabie, the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, in a statement late on Friday.

He was expected to speak at a news conference later on Saturday, his first since the Ever Given became stuck in the canal.

The US team will join experts from Japan’s Nippon Salvage and Smit International, a Dutch maritime salvage firm founded more than 150 years ago that has recovered vessels following some of the worst disasters at sea.

Smit International is known for working on technically challenging salvage operations.

These include: the Russian submarine Kursk, which sank in 2000 in the Barents Sea, with the loss of all 118 crew; cruise liner Costa Concordia, which struck rocks in the Mediterranean in 2012, resulting in 32 deaths; and the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry, which sank near Belgian port of Zeebrugge in 1987, with 193 fatalities.

The Ever Given ran aground on Tuesday in a narrow stretch of the canal just north of the city of Suez after it was blown off course by strong winds during a sandstorm, according to the canal authority.

Two pilots from the canal authority were on board the Ever Given when it became stuck.

Nine tugs and dredgers are currently involved in the effort to dislodge the 400-metre-long vessel. They are due to be joined by two more tugs on Sunday.