Suez Canal: Ever Given on the move after being refloated
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The Suez Canal was blocked for a week with hundreds of ships waiting to transit the essential waterway. Many vessels were diverted on a weeks-long detour around Africa costing billions, disrupting supply chains and delaying cargo – including perishables and livestock. But what happened to the crew of the Ever Given and what really caused the blockage?
The Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level waterway located in Egypt connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, through the Isthmus of Suez.
On March 23, at around 7.40am local time, the Suez Canal was blocked in both directions by the ultra-large Golden-class container ship Ever Given.
The ship was en route from Malaysia to the Netherlands when it ran aground following strong winds which allegedly blew it off course.
The Ever Given turned sideways and completely blocked the canal.
The Suez Canal is one of the world’s busiest trade routes, which meant hundreds of ships were waiting to pass through the canal.
The stranded Ever Given mega-container ship in the Suez Canal held up an estimated $9.6bn (£7bn) of goods each day, according to shipping data, which equates to $400m (£290m) an hour.
After a weeklong issue, maritime traffic began moving once again in Egypt’s Suez Canal after the container ship was freed on Monday, March 30.
The successful refloating of the ship was helped by a high tide and a flotilla of tug boats which managed to wrench the ship’s bow from the sandy bank where Ever Given had run aground.
A statement from the Suez Canal Authority said: “Admiral Osama Rabei [SCA chairman] announces the resumption of maritime traffic in the Suez Canal after the authority successfully rescues and floats the giant Panamanian container ship Ever Given.”
Mr Rabie said: “We managed to refloat the ship in record time.
“If such a crisis had occurred anywhere else in the world, it would have taken three months to be solved.”
Egyptian officials say the backlog of ships waiting to pass through the canal should clear in around three days.
However, experts claim the knock-on effect of these delays could last several weeks or even months.
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But what has happened to the Ever Given crew and what really caused the blockage?
The Ever Given’s technical operator, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), has repeatedly blamed strong winds.
The company said: “Initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding.”
The Suez Canal Authority said initially the ship lost the ability to be steered in high winds and a dust storm, although Mr Rabie later added that “technical or human errors” may be to blame.
Marcus Baker, global head of marine and cargo at Marsh Inc. told Reuters: “There’ll be an investigation, clearly, because this has had such a big impact and exactly what’s happened here, I think, will be debated for some time.”
He added: “What do we do going forward to ensure it doesn’t happen again?
“Again, I would leave that to the competent authorities that are in Egypt to decide how they want to make sure that traffic transits safely through the canal because, look, it’s in their interest to do that.”
The claims of human errors have prompted speculation the captain and crew of Ever Given will be placed under house arrest, according to The Sun.
The crew are reportedly going to be seized by Egyptian maritime officials, according to the publication.
In total, 25 seamen will be affected with officials fearing they could face lengthy jail sentences.
A senior member of the shipping industry told The Times of India: “There is a clear danger that the crew will be made scapegoats.”
Some experts claim the ship was blown off course by a sandstorm, but canal authorities are still looking into the possibility of “human error”.
Other observers blame the “sail effect” for the grounding which happens when strong winds strike a ship with containers stacked high and leads to the ship moving in the direction of the wind.
Now the crisis has passed, many are concerned about who will pay for the blockage.
The ship is likely to be at the centre of a long legal battle given the huge financial impact it has had around the world.
Many officials believe any of the suggested reasons are possible, but because Suez Canal Authority’s rules state that the vessel is “wholly responsible” for any damage, unless the ship’s operators can prove it occurred by accident, the question of culpability is highly contentious.
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