Suez Canal Reopens After Caught Cargo Ship Is Freed | Enterprise Information

From ISABEL DEBRE and SAMY MAGDY, Associated Press

SUEZ, Egypt (AP) – Salvage teams on Monday freed the colossal container ship that was stuck in the Suez Canal for almost a week, ending a crisis that blocked one of the world’s major waterways and stopped billions of dollars a day in sea trade.

A flotilla of tugs supported by the tides tore the bulbous prow of the skyscraper-sized Ever Given from the sandy banks of the canal, where it had been anchored since March 23.

The tugs roared with joy as they led Ever Given through the water after days of futility that had cast a spell over the world.

“We made it!” said Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, the salvage company hired to extract the Ever Given. “I am pleased to be able to inform you that our team of experts, in close cooperation with the Suez Canal Authority, has successfully made Ever Given afloat again. This enables free passage through the Suez Canal again.”

Navigation in the canal resumed at 6:00 p.m. local time (4:00 p.m. GMT, 12:00 p.m. CET), Lieutenant General Osama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority, said, adding that the first ships to move were carrying cattle. From the city of Suez, ships could be seen stacked with containers and leaving the canal into the Red Sea.

At least 113 of over 420 ships that have been waiting for Ever Given to be released are due to cross the channel by Tuesday morning, Rabei added at a press conference.

Analysts believe it could take at least another 10 days for the backlog to clear on both ends.

Ever Given sailed to Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south ends of the canal, for inspection, said Evergreen Marine Corp., a Taiwan-based shipping company that operates the ship.

About 6 kilometers north of the southern entrance near the city of Suez, the Ever Given was hit by a sandstorm and crashed into the bank of a single-track section of the canal. This created a massive traffic jam that grossed $ 9 billion a day in world trade and weighed on supply chains that were already strained by the coronavirus pandemic.

Rabei said an investigation would determine why the Ever Given got stuck and estimated the daily losses for the channel at $ 12-15 million.

“The Suez Canal is not to blame for what happened. We are the ones who have suffered harm. ” he said.

At least 367 ships, carrying everything from crude oil to cattle, had withdrawn to wait to cross the canal. Dozens of others have taken the long, alternative route around the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa – a 5,000 kilometer detour that costs ships hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and other costs.

The canal is a source of national pride and crucial revenue for Egypt, and President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi praised the events on Monday after days of silence over the blockade.

“The Egyptians managed to end the crisis,” he wrote on Facebook, “despite the massive technical complexity.”

In the village of Amer, which overlooks the canal, residents cheered as the ship moved forward. Many got up to take a closer look, while others mockingly waved goodbye to the departing ship from their clover fields

“Mission accomplished,” said villager Abdalla Ramadan. “The whole world is relieved.”

The US embassy in Cairo sent its congratulations to Egypt.

The breakthrough followed days of immense effort with an elite recovery team from the Netherlands. Tugs pushed and pulled to move the giant from the bank. Their work was carried by the tide at dawn on Monday, which caused the ship to partially float up. Specialized dredgers dug out the stern and sucked sand and mud out from under the bow.

The operation was extremely delicate. While the Ever Given was stuck, rising and falling tides weighed on the 400-meter-long ship and raised concerns that it might crack.

Rabei praised the team, saying they “accomplished a very difficult mission in record time” without damaging the ship or its cargo.

Berdowski told Dutch radio station NPO 1 that the company had always believed that it would be the two powerful tugs that would free the ship. Monday’s heavy tide “helped push the ship up as we pulled down, and luckily it shot free,” he said.

“The strong tide we had this afternoon helped us tremendously. In fact, you have the forces of nature pushing hard on you and they have pushed harder than the two sea tugs could pull, ”added Berdowski.

The crew of the tugs were “euphoric”, but there was also a tense moment when the huge ship floated free. Then you have to get it under control very quickly with the tugs so that it doesn’t push itself back to the other side of the canal, ”he said.

Cheering workers on a tugboat with the Ever Given chant “Mashhour, No. 1 ”was referring to the dredger that was working around the ship. The dredger is named after Mashhour Ahmed Mashhour, who was supposed to operate the canal with others when it was nationalized by President Gamal Abdel-Nasser in 1956.

Once the Ever Given in Great Bitter Lake is inspected, officials will decide whether the Japanese-owned Panamanian-flagged ship transporting goods from Asia to Europe will continue to move to its original destination of Rotterdam or go to another port for repairs .

The crisis took a look at the vital trade route that accounts for over 10% of world trade, including 7% of world oil. Over 19,000 ships carrying Chinese-made consumer goods and millions of barrels of oil and liquefied natural gas flow through the artery from the Middle East and Asia to Europe and North America.

The unprecedented shutdown, which created fears of extended delays, shortages of goods and rising costs for consumers, has raised new questions about the shipping industry, an on-demand supplier to a world under pressure from the pandemic.

“We went to that fragile just-in-time shipping that we considered absolutely broken at the start of COVID,” said Captain John Konrad, founder and CEO of shipping news website gcaptain.com. “In the past, we had big, fat warehouses in every country where the factories were drawing supplies. … Now these floating ships are the warehouse. “

The international trade expert Jeffrey Bergstrand predicted “only a minor and temporary effect” on the prices of US imports.

“With most of the imports blocked last week going to Europe, US consumers are likely to have little impact on US import prices, except to the extent that intermediates from US end-products are manufactured in Europe.” said Bergstrand, professor of finance at the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame.

DeBre reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associate press writers Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Jon Gambrell in Dubai contributed to this.

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