As it happened: Ever Given ship blocking Suez Canal has been freed

Egypt - How the giant container was refloated.

By AP, Reuters

Published: Tue 30 Mar 2021, 2:40 AM

A giant ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal earlier this week, throwing the shipping industry into a state of crisis, has finally been freed.

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KT graphic by Raja Choudhury

The 400-metre (430-yard) long Ever Given became jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal in high winds early last Tuesday, halting shipping traffic on the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.

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Ever Given ship blocking Suez Canal has been freed

A giant ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal earlier this week, throwing the shipping industry into a state of crisis, has finally been freed.

Helped by the peak of high tide, a flotilla of tugboats managed to wrench the bulbous bow of the skyscraper-sized Ever Given from the canal’s sandy bank, where it had been firmly lodged since last Tuesday.

'Ship swings back across canal before next tugging attempt'

A giant container ship that was jammed across the Suez Canal and has been partially refloated swung back across channel amid high wind on Monday ahead of the next attempt to fully dislodge it, a Reuters witness and a canal source said.

The source said the ship’s bow was afloat in the water despite its change of position, and that the vessel had not become regrounded.

Oil market rebounds on Suez ship warning

World oil prices rebounded on Monday, reversing earlier losses after a warning that the Suez Canal container ship blockage remains a challenging situation. Traders remain on tenterhooks because the canal is one of the most important routes for global trade and crude shipments.

In reaction, oil prices were about one percent higher in midday London deals, as traders also mulled Thursday’s Opec producers’ meeting.

Prices tumbled earlier after salvage teams were said to have managed to partly move the ship which has blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week.

Elsewhere, Asian and European stock markets were mixed on Monday as traders mulled coronavirus turmoil and set aside another record-breaking pre-weekend lead from Wall Street. London traded flat, while Paris and Frankfurt both rose 0.5 per cent despite the continent’s stuttering inoculation drive and rising infections.

New York’s three main indices finished Friday on a strong note, with the Dow and S&P 500 ending at all-time highs.

'Ship backlogs could take months to clear'

The stranding of a container ship in the Suez Canal has created disruptions in the global shipping industry that could take weeks and possibly months to clear, top container shipping lines said.

Around 30 per cent of the world’s shipping container volume - including goods like sofas, consumer electronics, apparel and shoes - moves through the 193 km (120 miles) Suez Canal daily. Empty containers, which Asian factories need to ship goods, are also caught up in the backlog.

“Even when the canal gets reopened, the ripple effects on global capacity and equipment are significant,” the world’s largest container shipping company Maersk said in a customer advisory on Monday.

Maersk has three vessels stuck in the canal and another 29 waiting to enter, it said, adding that it had so far rerouted 15 vessels to sail south of Africa instead.

“Assessing the current backlog of vessels, it could take six days or more for the complete queue to pass,” it said.

“Unfortunately, even when the canal re-opens for the huge backlog of ships waiting at anchorage this will lead to a surge in arrivals at certain ports and we may experience fresh congestion problems,” Caroline Becquart, Senior Vice President with MSC said in a statement.

“We envisage the second quarter of 2021 being more disrupted than the first three months, and perhaps even more challenging than it was at the end of last year.”

Egyptians succeeded in ending the Suez Canal crisis: Sisi

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi said on Monday that Egyptians had succeeded in ending the crisis of the container ship stranded in the Suez Canal.

“And by restoring matters to their normal course, with Egyptian hands, the whole world can be assured of the path of its goods and needs that are carried through this navigational artery,” Sisi said on his official social media pages.

Oil slumps as ship starts to move

Oil slumped around 2 per cent on Monday after news from the Suez Canal that salvage crews have managed to move the giant container ship that has been clogging up the vital global trade passage for nearly a week.

Brent oil was down $1.19, or 1.8 per cent, at $63.38 a barrel by 0658 GMT. US crude fell $1.34, or 2.2 per cent, to $59.63 a barrel.

Prices have swung wildly in the last few days as traders and investors tried to weigh the impact of the blockage of a key trade transit point and the broader effect of lockdowns to stop coronavirus infections.

That market volatility is set to continue, said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.

“Given the volatility last week, Brent looks set to move to the lower end of its $60.00 to $65.00 a barrel range,” he said, while U.S. oil is “likely to drop to the lower side of its $57.50 to $62.50 a barrel weekly range.”

Completing refloat of ship won’t be easy- Boskalis CEO

News about the partial refloating of the giant container ship that was stuck in the Suez Canal is good, but completing the operation would not be a “piece of cake”, Boskalis CEO Peter Berdowski told Dutch public radio on Monday.

Boskalis is the parent company of Smit Salvage, which has assisted in efforts to dislodge the ship.

A new tug would arrive and water would be injected under the ship’s bow to help free it, but if those efforts did not work containers might have to be removed, Berdowski said.

Ever Given turned 80 per centin ‘right direction’

“The position of the ship has been reorientated 80 per cent in the right direction,” Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority chief Osama Rabie said in a statement.

“The stern... moved to 102 metres (335 feet) from the shore,” compared to its position four metres from the shore previously, he added.

Rabie noted that the process of refloating the ship had begun, “with success”.

The 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 statement added.

Images show ship straightened in Suez Canal

Images showed the container ship that had been blocking the Suez Canal has straightened in the waterway, and two local shipping sources said it had returned to its “normal course”.

Ever Given container ship ‘has turned’ but not afloat:

The ship “has turned” but is not yet afloat, a spokesman for the vessel’s owner said Monday.

The official from Shoei Kisen said the Ever Given was “stuck at an angle of 30 degrees towards the canal but that has eased,” adding that the ship “has turned” but it “is not afloat.”

“A total of 11 tug boats have been pulling Ever Given since this morning,” he added.

The spokesman, who declined to give his name, said there has been damage sustained by the ship on its bow when it got stuck “but no new damage has been reported.”

Big backlog

At least 369 vessels were waiting to transit the canal, including dozens of container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vessels, SCA Chairman Osama Rabie said.

“The ship’s captain is the one responsible for the vessel at all times,” Rabie told Egyptian state television on Monday. “It is very possible that by today noon shipping activity would resume, god willing. We will not waste one second.”

The SCA has said it can accelerate convoys through the canal once the Ever Given is freed.

“We have movement, which is good news. But I wouldn’t say it’s a piece of cake now,” Peter Berdowski, the CEO of Smit Salvage’s parent company Boskalis, told Dutch public radio.

High pressure water would be injected under the bow of the ship to remove sand and clay but if that was unsuccessful, containers might have to be removed from the ship, which would cause a considerable delay, he said.

A source involved in the salvage operation told Reuters on Monday they were re-ballasting the ship and expect that with a favorable tide, cargo will not need to be removed.

“The good news is she’s moved. But she is still stuck in the mud. A second large anchor-handling tug will arrive this morning. Hopefully they will be able to pull her free.”

The ship’s technical manager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Cheers erupt, crude prices fall

Video posted on social media appeared to show the ship had swung around, opening space in the canal. Other footage, which could not be immediately verified by Reuters, included cheering and ships’ horns sounding in celebration.

Crude oil prices fell after news of progress in refloating the ship, with Brent crude down by $1 per barrel to $63.67. Shares of Taiwan-listed Evergreen Marine Corp - the vessel’s lessor - rose 3.3 per cent.

About 15 per cent of world shipping traffic transits the Suez Canal, which is a key source of foreign currency revenue for Egypt. The current stoppage is costing the canal $14-$15 million a day.

Shipping rates for oil product tankers nearly doubled after the ship became stranded, and the blockage has disrupted global supply chains, threatening costly delays for companies already dealing with COVID-19 restrictions.

Some shippers had decided to reroute their cargoes around the Cape of Good Hope, adding about two weeks to journeys and extra fuel costs.

A note from A.P. Moeller Maersk seen by Reuters said it had so far redirected 15 vessels around the Cape after calculating that the journey would be equal to the current delay of sailing to Suez and queuing.

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