Massive cargo ship becomes wedged, blocks Egypt’s Suez Canal

In this photo released by the Suez Canal Authority, a cargo ship, named the MV Ever Given, sits with its bow stuck into the wall Wednesday, March 24, 2021, after it turned sideways in Egypt’s Suez Canal, blocking traffic in a crucial East-West waterway for global shipping. An Egyptian official warned Wednesday it could take at least two days to clear the ship. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)In this photo released by the Suez Canal Authority, a cargo ship, named the MV Ever Given, sits with its bow stuck into the wall Wednesday, March 24, 2021, after it turned sideways in Egypt’s Suez Canal, blocking traffic in a crucial East-West waterway for global shipping. An Egyptian official warned Wednesday it could take at least two days to clear the ship. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)
In this photo released by the Suez Canal Authority, a boat navigates in front of a massive cargo ship, named the MV Ever Given, rear, sits grounded Wednesday, March 24, 2021, after it turned sideways in Egypt’s Suez Canal, blocking traffic in a crucial East-West waterway for global shipping. An Egyptian official warned Wednesday it could take at least two days to clear the ship. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)In this photo released by the Suez Canal Authority, a boat navigates in front of a massive cargo ship, named the MV Ever Given, rear, sits grounded Wednesday, March 24, 2021, after it turned sideways in Egypt’s Suez Canal, blocking traffic in a crucial East-West waterway for global shipping. An Egyptian official warned Wednesday it could take at least two days to clear the ship. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)
This satellite image from Planet Labs Inc. shows the cargo ship MV Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal near Suez, Egypt, Tuesday, March 23, 2021. A cargo container ship that’s among the largest in the world has turned sideways and blocked all traffic in Egypt’s Suez Canal, officials said Wednesday, March 24, 2021, threatening to disrupt a global shipping system already strained by the coronavirus pandemic. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)This satellite image from Planet Labs Inc. shows the cargo ship MV Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal near Suez, Egypt, Tuesday, March 23, 2021. A cargo container ship that’s among the largest in the world has turned sideways and blocked all traffic in Egypt’s Suez Canal, officials said Wednesday, March 24, 2021, threatening to disrupt a global shipping system already strained by the coronavirus pandemic. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)
In this photo released by the Suez Canal Authority, Lt. Gen. Ossama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority, second right, speaks to other staff onboard a boat near the stuck cargo ship MV Ever Given Wednesday, March 24, 2021, after it turned sideways in Egypt’s Suez Canal, blocking traffic in a crucial East-West waterway for global shipping. An Egyptian official warned Wednesday it could take at least two days to clear the ship. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)In this photo released by the Suez Canal Authority, Lt. Gen. Ossama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority, second right, speaks to other staff onboard a boat near the stuck cargo ship MV Ever Given Wednesday, March 24, 2021, after it turned sideways in Egypt’s Suez Canal, blocking traffic in a crucial East-West waterway for global shipping. An Egyptian official warned Wednesday it could take at least two days to clear the ship. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

A skyscraper-sized container ship has become wedged across Egypt’s Suez Canal and blocked all traffic in the vital waterway, officials said Wednesday, threatening to disrupt a global shipping system already strained by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ever Given, a Panama-flagged ship that carries cargo between Asia and Europe, ran aground Tuesday in the narrow, man-made canal dividing continental Africa from the Sinai Peninsula. Images showed the ship’s bow was touching the eastern wall, while its stern looked lodged against the western wall — an extraordinary event that experts said they had never heard of happening before in the canal’s 150-year history.

Tugboats strained Wednesday to try to nudge the obstruction out of the way as ships hoping to enter the waterway began lining up in the Mediterranean and Red Seas. But it remained unclear when the route, through which around 10% of world trade flows and which is particularly crucial for the transport of oil, would reopen. One official warned it could take at least two days. In the meantime, there were concerns that idling ships could become targets for attacks.

“The Suez Canal will not spare any efforts to ensure the restoration of navigation and to serve the movement of global trade,” vowed Lt. Gen. Ossama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority.

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, which manages the Ever Given, said all 20 members of the crew were safe and that there had been “no reports of injuries or pollution.”

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the Ever Given to become wedged on Tuesday morning. GAC, a global shipping and logistics company, said the ship had experience a blackout without elaborating.

Bernhard Schulte, however, denied the ship ever lost power.

Evergreen Marine Corp., a major Taiwan-based shipping company that operates the ship, said in a statement that the Ever Given had been overcome by strong winds as it entered the canal from the Red Sea but none of its containers had sunk.

An Egyptian official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to brief journalists, similarly blamed a strong wind. Egyptian forecasters said high winds and a sandstorm plagued the area Tuesday, with winds gusting as much as 50 kph (30 mph).

However, it remained unclear how winds of that speed alone would have been able to push a fully laden vessel weighing some 220,000 tons.

A pilot from Egypt’s canal authority typically boards a ship to guide it through the waterway, though the ship’s captain retains ultimate authority over the vessel, said Ranjith Raja, a lead analyst at the data firm Refinitiv. The vessel entered the canal some 45 minutes before it became stuck, moving at 12.8 knots (about 24 kph, 15 mph) just before the crash, he said.

An image posted to Instagram by a user on another waiting cargo ship appeared to show the Ever Given wedged across the canal as shown in satellite images and data. A backhoe appeared to be digging into the sand bank under its bow in an effort to free it.

The Egyptian official said tugboats hoped to refloat the ship and that the operation would take at least two days. The ship ran aground some 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) north of the southernly mouth of the canal near the city of Suez, an area of the canal that’s a single lane.

That could have a major knock-on effect for global shipping moving between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, warned Salvatore R. Mercogliano, a former merchant mariner and associate professor of history at North Carolina’s Campbell University.

“Every day, 50 vessels on average go through that canal, so the closing of the canal means no vessels are transiting north and south,” Mercogliano told the AP. “Every day the canal is closed … container ships and tankers are not delivering food, fuel and manufactured goods to Europe and goods are not being exported from Europe to the Far East.”

Already, some 30 vessels waited at Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake midway on the canal, while some 40 idled in the Mediterranean near Port Said and another 30 at Suez in the Red Sea, according to canal service provider Leth Agencies. That included seven vessels carrying some 5 million barrels of crude oil, Refinitiv said.

In addition to the economic implications, security experts warned that idling ships in the Red Sea could be targets after a series of attacks against shipping in the Mideast amid tensions between Iran and the U.S.

“All vessels should consider adopting a heightened posture of alertness if forced to remain static within the Red Sea or Gulf of Aden,” warned private marine intelligence firm Dryad Global.

The closure also could affect oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Mideast. The price of international benchmark Brent crude jumped nearly 2.9% to $62.52 a barrel Wednesday.

The Ever Given, built in 2018 with a length of nearly 400 metres (a quarter mile) and a width of 59 metres (193 feet), is among the largest cargo ships in the world. It can carry some 20,000 containers at a time. It previously had been at ports in China before heading toward Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Opened in 1869, the Suez Canal provides a crucial link for oil, natural gas and cargo. It also remains one of Egypt’s top foreign currency earners. In 2015, the government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi completed a major expansion of the canal, allowing it to accommodate the world’s largest vessels. However, the Ever Given ran aground south of that new portion of the canal.

The stranding Tuesday marks just the latest to affect mariners amid the pandemic. Hundreds of thousands have been stuck aboard vessels due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, demands on shipping have increased, adding to the pressure on tired sailors, Mercogliano said.

“It’s because of the breakneck pace of global shipping right now and shipping is on a very tight schedule,” he said. “Add to it that mariners have not been able to get on and off vessels because of COVID restrictions.”

___

Associated Press writers Taijing Wu in Taipei, Taiwan, Samy Magdy in Cairo, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Isabel DeBre in Dubai contributed to this report.

___

Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Egypt

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: Town of Smithers lifts alert for high levels of chlorine in water

Residents are advised town water is now safe to use

Garry Merkel has been recognized for his work in culturally appropriate Indigenous education with an honourary doctorate from the University of British Columbia.
Tahltan educator recognized with honorary doctorate from UBC

Garry Merkel has dedicated his life to improving Indigenous educational outcomes

Gareth Manderson, general manager BC Works, and Bandstra’s Zach Runions and Steve Collins. Photo supplied
Smithers family-owned business institution sold to publicly-traded company

Bandstra Transportation and Babine Trucking acquired by Mullen Group

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP, investigating explosion in Harewood, also came across an alcohol still on the property

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. sees 1,006 COVID-19 cases Thursday, ‘alarming’ 502 in hospital

Vaccine bookings for people aged 60 and older set to start

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Shannon Zirnhelt, from left, her son Lockie, 3, Julia Zirnhelt, 13, and Ella Krus, 13, co-founders of Third Planet Crusade are featured in a music video set to air on Earth Day, April 22, 2021. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
VIDEO: B.C.-made music video launched in time for Earth Day 2021

Singer songwriter Shannon Zirnhelt worked with Third Planet Crusade on the project in the Cariboo

Ambulance crews have been busy with a record number of emergency overdose calls this Wednesday, April 21. (BC Emergency Health Services)
B.C. paramedics responded to a record 138 overdose calls in a single day

Wednesday’s calls included 48 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and 51 in Fraser Health

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. COVID-19 hotspots targeted as AstraZeneca vaccine runs low

17,000 appointments booked the first day for people aged 40 and up

Dresses hang outside Nelson city hall as part of the REDress Project by Métis artist Jaime Black. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
B.C. red dresses symbolizing missing, murdered Indigenous women vandalized a 2nd time

Nelson’s REDress Project was vandalized along with an outdoor installation on Vancouver Island

A nurse loads a syringe with a vaccine for injection at the Victoria Clipper Terminal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout not enough to bring back normal life by fall: report

Only 51% of the population will be protected under B.C.’s current rollout, SFU professors say more vaccinations are needed to achieve herd immunity

Most Read