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How a dredger and a fleet of tugboats helped free the Ever Given from the Suez Canal

How a dredger and a fleet of tugboats helped free the Ever Given from the Suez Canal

The Mashhour dredger removing sand from around the stuck Ever Given ship in the Suez Canal.

Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies/Business Insider

  • The Ever Given was freed Monday after spending approximately six days stuck in the Suez Canal.
  • The Suez Canal Authority last week employed the Dutch dredging and heavylift company to assist.
  • A dredger known as a Mashhour and more than a dozen tugboats helped free the ship.
  • See more stories on Business Insider SA’s home page.

After nearly six days blocking the Suez Canal, the massive cargo ship Ever Given was freed on Monday, reopening the pivotal maritime waterway that had been blocked since the ship became lodged last week.

The Ever Given became lodged in the side of the Suez Canal last Tuesday. Officials suspect the ship became stuck due to high winds and a large dust storm. A previous Insider report also revealed that the container ship was traveling nearly 5 knots faster than permitted in the canal, though experts explained that speeding up is a tactic used to better control a vessel during a wind storm.

The Suez Canal Authority, which confirmed the ship was freed Monday around 15:00, worked from Tuesday to Thursday before it employed Dutch firm Boskalis to assist in removing the ship from the side of the canal.

A dredging ship called the Mashhour helped dig Ever Given out of the canal

Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies

As Insider previously reported, the ship, which weighs 220,000 tons, had been partially re-floated earlier Monday, around 04:00, after days of work by a dredging ship dubbed the Mashhour. The dredger, which was used beginning Thursday, is capable of moving 70,000 cubic feet of sand per hour, said Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the technical manager of the Ever Given.

But early Monday it wasn’t immediately clear if the partial re-floating that involved freeing the stern of the ship would result in freeing the Ever Given entirely.

“Don’t cheer too soon,” Peter Berdowski, CEO of dredging specialists Boskalis, said earlier Monday, warning that the bow was still stuck in sand and clay despite the stern being freed.

The constant dredging of sand using the Mashhour was vital in allowing tugboats to finally pull the ship free. In addition to the Mashour, smaller dredgers were also used to free the Ever Given.

In total, some 30,000 cubic meters of sand and mud were removed from around the ship as workers worked round-the-clock to re-float it.

Workers who freed the Ever Given worked with the tide

Also pivotal to freeing the ship, which is slightly larger than the Empire State Building, were the moon and tides in the canal. Workers attempting to free the ship worked in tandem with rising and lowering tides to free the ship from the Suez.

According to The New York Times, a full moon and resulting “king tide” on Sunday provided favourable conditions for the effort to re-float the Ever Given as it allowed for a few extra inches of tidal flow.

Boskalis said it used two “powerful seagoing tugs” to finally free the ship. Those tugboats were used in addition to 11 tugboats used by the Suez Canal Authority.

The ship is now headed toward Great Bitter Lake – a wide body of water midway through the canal – where it will be inspected, Boskalis said.

It could still take days to resolve the backlog of ships that were stuck behind the Ever Given

Now that the vessel is freed, the more than 350 ships that were anchored in wait have already begun to move through the canal. According to the Journal of Commerce, a container shipping and trade publication, container shipping companies are in disagreement about the length of time it will take to clear the backlog of ships, estimating that it will take anywhere from 4 days to at least a week.

The Egyptian president’s advisor for the canal authority, Mohab Mamish, told Bloomberg that it may take a week to resolve the backlog.

But despite the canal’s reopening, some of the world’s largest shipping container companies have already made the decision to take a different route .

Maersk, the company whose “Maersk Denver” vessel was originally the first ship stuck behind the Ever Given and released one of the first photos of the stuck ship, said it directed 15 of its ships around Cape Town, a 15,000 mile detour. Hapag-Lloyd, another container shipping company, said it detoured six of its ships around Africa, as well, but had no more plans to reroute now that the shipping channels have been restored.

The full economic impacts of the stuck ship aren’t immediately clear

The Suez Canal may be cleared, but Maersk warned that the economic effects of the nearly week-long blockage may take months to resolve.

“Even when the canal gets reopened, the ripple effects on global capacity and equipment are significant and the blockage has already triggered a series of further disruptions and backlogs in global shipping that could take weeks, possibly months, to unravel,” the company said in a statement on Monday.

The Suez Canal blockage prevented an estimated $9.6 billion in trade every day, according to Lloyds List, or more than $50 billion after 6 days. Toilet paper, coffee, and furniture are among the industries most affected by the Ever Given. IKEA, an international furniture company, said it had more than 100 containers on board the Ever Given and expected supply chain delays from the crisis.

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