Early Monday morning (March 29, 2021), authorities announced that the Ever Given had been partially freed from the banks of the Suez Canal. Although final success is still some ways off, the announcement raised hopes that the canal could reopen, and shipping could begin again soon.
Ship tracking websites confirmed the reports, showing that the enormous container ship had moved slightly from its position between the banks.
So, the #SuezCanal is blocked...— John Scott-Railton (@jsrailton) March 23, 2021
Massive container ship EVER GIVEN stuck in the most awkward way possible.
Ongoing for hours. Every tug Egypt could spare appear to be trying to pull it free.
Vessel tracker: https://t.co/MsTUgVgyTH pic.twitter.com/08w4qpPqln
The 224,000-ton ship, which sailed under a Panama flag, was traveling down the 119 mile (192 km) waterway en route to the Dutch port of Rotterdam last week. It is more than 1,300 ft (396 m) long and, unfortunately, ran aground after a sandstorm reduced visibility and impaired the ship's capacity to navigate. Thanks to the 31 mph (50 kmh) winds, the ship's cargo acted like sails and wedged it between the banks.
This was a trade catastrophe of epic proportions, as the Suez Canal is a vital shortcut for worldwide commerce in Egypt — enabling direct water-based transportation between Europe's Mediterranean Sea and Asia via the Red Sea. Experts say that the blockage costs nearly $10 billion in global trade each day.
Ultimately, the event just adds more pain to the global shipping network, which has already been strained by the coronavirus pandemic.
Teams have been working around the clock to free the 200,000-ton container ship. This breakthrough comes after days-long efforts to vacuum up the sand and mud beneath the ship and yank the Ever Given free with 10 tugboats.
Osama Rabie, Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chief, told an Egyptian news channel that the ship had first moved from side to side late on Saturday. It was a good sign, considering that some 360 vessels were waiting to transit the canal. Meanwhile, many other ships had already decided to take their chances in less crowded waters, re-routing themselves around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope to circumvent the Suez Canal.
It sounds like an obvious solution; however, the 5,500 mile (9,000km) trek takes an additional 7 to 10 days, which adds an enormous fuel bill to the trip.
Unsurprisingly, as the ship became partially freed, the surrounding area erupted in celebration.
However, the Ever Given isn't fully free just yet. Tug boats are presently working to straighten the ship in its course, but experts are hopeful that normal operations will resume soon.
This was a breaking story and was updated as new information emerged.