Tugboat horns filled the air above the Suez canal on Monday (March 29), as a six-day-long operation to free the 1,300-foot-long cargo ship, the Ever Given, finally saw success. Assisted by high tide, tug boats were able to unwedge the ship and get it pointed in a more favorable direction for moving under its own power. The boat is now being towed to the Bitter Lakes, a large part of the canal that is used as a holding area. There, the ship will be examined to see if it is still fit to travel on to its original destination of Rotterdam — although, throughout the procedure, divers had been inspecting the hull and have found no damage, despite the impossible angle at which the ship had been stuck.
“His Excellency, Admiral Rabie, would like to reassure the international navigation society as navigation shall be resumed immediately upon the complete restoration of the vessel’s direction and directing it to the Bitter Lakes waiting area for technical inspection,” said the Egyptian government’s Suez Canal Authority (SCA) in a statement.
As PYMNTS reported last week, the stuck ship was estimated to be blocking about $10 billion worth of goods every day, as transport in the vital pathway came to a halt and boats lined up on either side of the canal. At least 20 of those boats held livestock, while others contained furniture, oil, cotton, auto parts and other supplies needed by companies in Europe and Asia. Due to the backup, some companies, including Hyundai, rerouted their ships around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope – a move that takes two weeks longer and could cost more than $26,000 a day in fuel, according to The New York Times, but would at least keep goods moving.
Now that the Ever Given is floating again, the hope is that the canal’s backlog of ships can be quickly cleared. This is no doubt a result that Egypt itself is eager to see, as the AP reported that data firm Refinitiv says the country has lost nearly $100 million in revenue while the shipping lane has been blocked. However, some say that it may take a while to resume normal traffic flow.
“Even when it starts to flow again, there’s going to be some days to clear that backlog, so you got those knock-on effects all the way through the supply chain,” Guy Platten, secretary-general of the International Chamber of Shipping, told CBS News. “You’ve got to remember that ships carry just about everything, from medical equipment to food to grain to fuel to all the other things in between.”
The freeing of the vessel was a combination of the use of dredgers, which sucked up 27,000 cubic meters of the sand and mud in which the ship was stuck; tugboats that nudged the 200,000-ton ship to a more favorable position; and the moon, which obliged rescue efforts by creating a high tide in the canal. The blockage, which came about due to high winds and a sandstorm that reduced visibility, was a reminder of just how fragile the global supply chain can be when unexpected forces like weather – or a global pandemic – swoop in.