Thatch, high tide and 200,000 tonnes: experts fear Ever Given could be in Suez for weeks | Suez Canal

Dredge and drag, dredge and pull. It is simple, in theory, to disperse a vessel immersed in sand. If the vessel is as long as the Empire State building in New York is tall, the process becomes more complicated.

Scrapers, tugboats and excavators, led by consultants around the world in lifeboats, have been working for days to deliver the 220,000 tonnes, 400 meters long that were involved in the Suez canal last Tuesday.

It has created a jumper of more than 200 vessels in one of the world’s leading trade routes. The ripple effect on shipping may be felt for weeks – and longer if the Japanese-owned “megaship” can’t be released anytime soon.

On Saturday the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), Osama Rabie, said work to move the vessel was ongoing and has so far allowed it to end and steer its movement and restart the propeller. But the variable tide had recaptured the equipment.

“The type of soil we are dealing with is very difficult to manage, as are the tides that affect the vessel due to its size and loads,” he said. Asked when the ship could launch again, Rabie suggested it was possible “today or tomorrow, depending on how responsive the ship is to the tides”.

A major barrier is the size and weight of the large vessel, part of a type of vessel that has accumulated in size over the past two decades, partly as a result of the rapid growth of “direct supply” models. the time ”that keeps companies slim, efficient and dependent on fast delivery from overseas factories and warehouses.

The experts brought in to free the vessel, the Dutch company SMIT Salvage and Japanese experts Nippon Salvage, have been working to spread tens of thousands of cubic meters of land around the a hit vessel, as tugs help to tow it free.

“These are the experts, but it took them three days to get into the country, now they have to find those big boats and take them to the canal, they are not based there, “said Captain John Konrad, a maritime expert and founder of Captain ‘s marine news site.

The redecoration process, as he explained, is likely to involve a movement known as “twisting backwards,” using large tugs to turn the vessel in turn and release it. the bank after scraping sand from around the arch.

View from above the Ever Given vessel stopping on either side in the Suez Canal.
The ship Ever Given, stuck on both sides in the Suez Canal. Photo: Maxar Technologies / AP

Ever Given technical management firm Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement said in a statement Friday that a special switchgear designed to move 2,000 cubic meters of sand per hour had arrived at the site the day before. “The focus is now on scraping to remove sand and mud from the port side of the ship’s bow,” they said.

This coincided with attempts to find fully-fledged pumps to remove water from the vessel’s front, enclosing its bow thrush chamber at the very top. The SCA said between 15,000 and 20,000 cubic meters of sand had to be scraped from the canal bank.

If the towing and scraping fail, one of the worst cases is that the vessel must be relieved of some of the approximately 20,000 boxes it carries, a process that Konrad said would involve introduce special cranes and other equipment that would be likely to expand. the timeline by weeks.

“The vessels are a problem because they are stacked so high – there are not many masts in the world that reach such a height,” he said. “You need big, heavy equipment, and you can’t bring it in. You have to put a mast on a galley and bring it in, as there is no capacity nearby. The tugboats, the boat and the mast, all equipment must come in from all sides, but there is no room in the canal for it to move through. “

Experts also point to the position of Ever Given, with its bow and hard end in banks opposite the canal, as a source that could be an additional problem.

“The vessel is in a precarious position, it hangs at its head,” said Sal Mercogliano, a former seaman, marine historian, and associate professor at Campbell University in North Carolina. This condition, exacerbated by low tide, can put pressure on the hull’s length, which can lead to cracks that can lead to other problems including the vessel releases fuel.

“I have some doubts about the Egyptians just scratching hard by the side of the ship. It is good to remove the dirt next to the vessel. But what a rescue team would like to do is assess the exact condition of the vessel first, ”he said.

“You don’t want the ship to crack, you don’t want it to, heaven forbid, break in half, because you’re doing something wrong.” If you start scratching without inspecting, there is a risk that the vessel will do something unexpected. And when I say unexpected, that’s a nice way to say roll, crack or break. “