Suez Canal: Ship causing logjam 'could soon be refloated' vessel's owner says as US offers help

Suban Abdulla
·4-min read
CAIRO, March 26, 2021 -- Rescue vessels work at the site of a container ship trapped on the Suez Canal of Egypt on March 26, 2021. The Suez Canal Authority SCA said on Friday that it welcomes cooperation with the United States in dislodging the giant cargo ship that has blocked the course of the world's busiest waterway since Tuesday, according to a statement released by the SCA. The SCA also expressed gratitude for all the other offers of assistance to free the ship, reiterating its keenness to restore maritime traffic in the Suez Canal as soon as possible. (Photo by Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa via Getty Images)
Rescue vessels work at the site of a container ship trapped on the Suez Canal of Egypt on March 26, 2021. Photo: Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua via Getty

The Japanese owners of the vessel blocking the Suez Canal said that an attempt will be made to refloat the vessel by taking advantage of tidal movements, which could see the ship dislodged as soon as Saturday.

At a press conference on Friday, the president of Shoei Kisen, Yukito Higaki told local media that 10 tugboats had been deployed to dredge the banks and canal bottom.

Higaki also said that there were no signs of damage to its engines and various instruments, adding that they were "continuing work to remove sediment as of now, with additional dredging tools."

Meanwhile, US president Joe Biden has also offered to help solve the dilemma, including sending the US Navy, as the trade route crisis enters its fifth day. "We have equipment and capacity that most countries don’t have. And we are seeing what help we can be," Biden said on Friday.

The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) "welcomed cooperation" with the US in removing the giant cargo ship that has blocked the course of the world's busiest waterway, a SCA statement said on Friday.

Previously, some experts have said it could be done over the next few days while others have warned it could take weeks due to bad weather.

It comes after seven tankers carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG) were diverted on Friday. Data intelligence firm Kpler said that three of the tankers were being diverted towards the longer route around Africa, via the Cape of Good Hope.

READ MORE: What Suez Canal blockage could mean for global trade

The majority of the diverted tankers, which were originally destined for Suez canal were now headed elsewhere, according to Kpler. "A total of 16 LNG vessels’ planned transit via the Suez Canal will be affected if the congestion persists until the end of this week," Kpler analyst Rebecca Chia said.

"Considerable delays in the loading schedule at Ras Laffan" for the start of April due to the congestion are expected, Chia said.

Worries are also mounting for the welfare of livestock on the trapped cargo vessels behind the ship. Charities have warned of the biohazard dangers of the prospects of the dislodging taking several weeks rather than days.

“Getting stuck on board means there is a risk of starvation, dehydration, injuries, waste buildup so they can’t lie down, and nor can the crew get rid of dead animal bodies in the canal. It’s basically a ticking biohazard timebomb for animals and the crew and any person involved," Peter Stevenson, chief policy officer at Compassion in World Farming, told Bloomberg.

The 400-metre Panama-flagged Ever Given ship has been stuck sideways in the Suez since Tuesday morning after it ran out of power, this has meant that more than 200 vessels have been tailing back from the Suez Canal.

The traffic-jam will have severe repercussions on global trade, bringing 13% of the world’s trade to a halt. According to shipping data the 200,000-tonne ship, which is capable of carrying 20,000 containers — is holding up an estimated £9.6bn ($13.3bn) of goods each day.

The ship is blocking the path of other vessels travelling in both directions across the Suez. Data from shipping expert Lloyd's List says that over 160 vessels are waiting at either end of the canal, including 41 bulk carriers and 24 crude tankers.

WATCH: Egypt: Plan made to use tide to refloat ship blocking Suez Canal

The Suez Canal, one of the world's busiest waterways, is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.

Built in 1869, the Suez Canal is used by around 50 vessels per day, according to Panjiva, the supply chain research unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence. Container ships accounted for 52.7% of the tonnage in 2019 transiting the canal including shipments from Asia to Europe and the US east coast as well as vice-versa.

It also said 19,000 ships pass through the canal every year.

The canal has had to contend with ever larger container vessels using the average tonnage per container ship reaching 119,000 tonnes in the 12 months to 28 February, 2020 from 93,500 in 2015, according to Panjiva.

Launched in 2018, the Ever Given, owned by Japanese firm Shoei Kisen Kaisha, is chartered by Taiwan-based Evergreen Marine. German firm Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) is responsible for its day-to-day operational running.

Oil prices were driven higher by the ordeal, with Brent futures (BZ=F) and Crude oil (CL=F) rising as much as 4% on Friday. But, prices crashed 6% earlier in the week on Tuesday as the crisis began and amid fears that the COVID-19 third wave could lead to oversupply in the market.

WATCH: Shipping rates and oil prices jump on Suez block