Suez Canal crisis: Ever Given owner to use tides today in new plans to release stuck ship

Suez Canal blocked after cargo ship Ever Given turns sideways

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The Suez Canal, a vital passageway for trade, has been blocked since Tuesday by a huge container ship. The 400-metre-long, 200,000-tonne Ever Given became wedged across the canal amid high winds and a dust storm. The ship is Japanese owned, and its owner recently apologised for the disruption, saying dislodging the Ever Given was proving extremely difficult. The reason for the Ever Given panic is because the ship’s size combined with wind conditions in Egypt could hamper efforts to clear the busy shipping route in time for operations to resume.

The owners of the vessel said on Friday they aimed to get the ship floating again by Saturday night, hoping a high tide could finally dislodge Ever Given.

At a press conference on Friday, Yuki Higaki, the president of Shoei Kisen, which owns the Ever Given, said it was aiming to free the ship “tomorrow night Japan time”, according to reports from the Nikkei news agency.

Mr Higaki said: “We are continuing work to remove sediment as of now, with additional dredging tools.”

The company boss also apologised for the “great trouble and concern” that the incident has caused around the world.

Reuters reports that work to free the ship with the expected high tide would kick off at 2.30pm, local time on Saturday.

An official at the Suez Canal Authority told Japanese reporters at the Asahi Shimbun they plan to make at least two attempts to free the Ever Given on Saturday with the high tide.

The official said the timing depends entirely on the tide patterns throughout March 27 and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Bernhard Schulte Ship Management (BSM), the Dutch technical firm working to free the container ship, said there have been no reports of pollution or any damage to the cargo.

The international company said initial investigations have ruled out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding.

BSM said in a statement: “All 25 crew are safe and accounted for and they remain in good health and spirits.

“All the crew are Indian nationals and remain on board.

“They are working closely with all parties involved to re-float the vessel, and the hard work and tireless professionalism of the Master and crew is greatly appreciated.”

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Some ship operators have parked up in the opening of the Suez Canal in the hopes Ever Given will become unstuck in the next few days.

However, some captains have opted to switch their trade route, instead going around the Cape of Good Hope off the coast of Africa, for fears the ship will be stuck for some time to come.

As a result of the world-disrupting blockage, oil and natural gas prices have risen, but a number of economists believe the impact will be short-lived.

Capital Economics said on Friday: “While there may be a temporary boost to commodity prices as freight is disrupted and ships are forced to divert around Africa, we don’t foresee any long-lasting implications.

“Countries will source commodities from elsewhere or draw down stocks until the canal reopens.”

Analysts say an estimated £290million worth of trade is being held up every hour the ship is stuck in the Suez.

The backlog of vessels could significantly strain European ports and the international supply of containers, which has already been adversely affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Swedish flat-pack furniture giant Ikea warned of delays of goods coming in from Asia as a result of the Ever Given crisis.

Business research group IHS Markit said 49 container ships were scheduled to pass through the canal in the week when Ever Given became stuck.

The ship’s displacement is so critical even US President Joe Biden offered his country’s services, saying: “We have equipment and capacity that most countries don’t have and we’re seeing what we can do and what help we can be.”

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