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Mega-ship in Suez Canal moved '80 per cent' in right direction

By AFP | March 29th 2021
The Ever Given was turned away from the bank of Suez Canal on Monday, raising hopes it could be soon be refloated [AFP]

The enormous container ship blocking the Suez Canal for almost a week has been turned 80 percent in the right direction, officials said Monday, raising hopes the vital trade route could soon be clear.

But its owner said that while the giant ship "has turned", it was still not yet fully unwedged.

The MV Ever Given, longer than four football fields, became wedged diagonally across the canal during a sandstorm last Tuesday, strangling world supply chains and costing the global economy billions.

Shipping data company Lloyd's List said that the tailback of ships had reached 425 at the two ends of the canal, in the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

Once the ship is fully afloat, it will take around three and a half days to clear the traffic jam of ships, Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chief Osama Rabie told Egyptian TV.

Rabie said earlier Monday that rescue efforts with tugs had succeeded in shifting the stern of the ship.

"The position of the ship has been reoriented 80 percent in the right direction," Rabie said in a statement.

"The stern... moved to 102 metres from the shore," compared to its position four metres from the shore previously.

Efforts to refloat it will resume on the next high tide.

The SCA statement said that the refloating process "will resume when water flow increases again from 11:30 am (0930 GMT) ...in order to completely refloat the vessel, so as to reposition it in the middle of the waterway."

The Suez Canal provides the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia [AFP]

Tug boat flotilla

An official from the 200,000-tonne ship's owners, Shoei Kisen, said while the Ever Given "has turned" it "is not afloat" at this stage.

The ship had been "stuck at an angle of 30 degrees towards the canal, but that has eased" with the help of a flotilla of tug boats, said the official.

"A total of 11 tug boats have been pulling Ever Given since this morning," the official said, adding that while there was damage sustained by the ship on its bow when it got stuck, "no new damage has been reported".

A canal official, who requested anonymity, said that the team on the ground had started technical checks, and were reassured that the ship's motor was working.

Salvage crews have been working around the clock.

They had focused on efforts to remove sand around the ship, with 27,000 cubic metres cleared at a depth of 18 metres, SCA spokesman George Safwat said Sunday.

On Sunday evening a shipping company, Leth agencies, had said Egyptian authorities had decided more tugboats were needed to shift the vessel and had postponed the refloating attempt around Sunday's high tide.

The Dutch-flagged Alp Guard arrived to join the mission on Sunday evening, while Italy's Carlo Magno arrived Monday morning.

The Panama-flagged MV Ever Given got stuck on Tuesday [AFP]

Knock-on effects

The crisis has forced companies to choose between waiting or rerouting vessels around Africa, which adds a huge fuel bill, 9,000 kilometres and over a week of travel to the trip between Asia and Europe.

Each day of the blockade could be costing global trade some $6-10 billion (Sh658 billion-Sh1 trillion), according to a study published Friday by German insurer Allianz.

That translates to some 0.2 to 0.4 percentage points of annual trade each week.

Russia offered assistance Sunday, following other countries including the United States that have made similar offers.

In a sign of the knock-on effects from the Suez blockage, authorities in war-wracked Syria said the crisis had hit its fuel imports from Iran and forced it to ration already scarce supplies.

Romania's animal health agency said 11 ships carrying livestock out of the country were also impacted, while the charity Animals International warned of a potential "tragedy" affecting some 130,000 animals.

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