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Suez Canal Blockage and how was it freed? April 01 2021Suez Canal, Suez Canal and how was it freed?

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Egypt's SUEZ- As dredgers worked desperately to free one of the most giant container ships trapped sideways in the waterway which was disrupting global shipping, a maritime traffic jam expanded to more than 200 vessels outside the Suez Canal on Friday (last week), and several vessels began to change their course.

Experts estimated that freeing the cargo ship, the Ever Given, could take up to a week in the best-case scenario, and also stated that the vessel could suffer structural damages while trapped. Although it was freed up on Monday- 29th March. The Canal Authority stated that, it welcomed international assistance including one from the US, but it did not specify what was provided.

The Ever Given, owned by a Japanese company namely- Shoei Kisen KK, got trapped on Tuesday (23rd March) in a single-lane stretch of the canal, about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) north of the southern entrance, near the Suez city.

The canal authority collaborated with a team from Boskalis, a Dutch salvage firm. Tug boats and specialized suction dredger were being used for the attempt to clear sand and mud from the port side of the bow. Although media was prohibited by the Egyptian authorities to visit the site.

An effort to free it on Friday failed, according to Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the Ever Given's technical manager. The company said that ‘’Plans are in the works to drain water from the vessel's interior spaces, and two more tugs to arrive by Sunday’’.  Freeing the Ever Given is a "massive task" that could take anything from five days to a week, The Associated Press spoke with Capt. Nick Sloane, a maritime salvage specialist.

How did this happen?

The vessel ran aground due to strong winds and sandstorm which reduced visibility. The ship had previously encountered a power outage, according to GAC, a multinational shipping and logistics firm, but it did not elaborate.

Two canal pilots were on board the ship when it became trapped, according to Bernhard Schulte. According to shipping experts, such an arrangement is common, but the ship's captain maintains ultimate control over the vessel. Over 100 ships were enrooted to the canal, in addition to over 200 vessels were waiting near it to pass by.

According to satellite data, the owners of the stuck vessel diverted a sister ship named-the Ever Greet, to go around Africa presumably expecting long delays. Other vessels were diverted to avoid overcrowding at the canal as well. Pan Americas, a liquid natural gas carrier changed its course in the mid-Atlantic, turning south to circumnavigate Africa's southern tip.

Loss suffered by businesses.

Around 10% of global trade passes through the canal, which is particularly important for oil transport. The closure impacted oil and gas shipments from the Middle East to Europe.

International businesses had to suffer for the effects of the canal's closure on supply chains that depend on on-time deliveries. The backlog of ships created a strain on European ports and the international supply of shipments, which was already strained due to the coronavirus pandemic. In the week after the Ever Given became stranded, 49 container ships were scheduled to move through the canal, according to the study. Companies may also opt for major insurance claims as a result of the delay, as a ship like the Ever Given is normally insured for $100 million to $200 million.

The operation was more complicated because of the Ever Given's location, scale, and large amount of freight, according to Sloane. Rather than unloading its freight, which could take weeks, the operation could first concentrate on dredging the bank and seabed around it to get it afloat again. That's because the ship's structural clock is ticking as well, he explained.

Ever Given's bow appeared to be touching the eastern wall, while its stern appeared to be lodged against the western wall, according to satellite and images distributed by the canal authority.

How was the ship freed?

The giant ship was freed on the 7th day (29th March), as they attempted to dislodge the Ever Given, a Dutch specialist team, SMIT, oversaw a flotilla of 13 tugs, small but strong vessels capable of moving large ships. Dredgers were brought in and excavated 30,000 cubic meters of mud and sand from the ship's ends. It was feared over the weekend that some of the ship's 18,000-container cargo would have to be removed in order to lighten the load.

However, high tides helped the tugs and dredgers in their work, and early on Monday, the stern (back) of the ship was freed, and the great ship swung across the canal to cheers. The bow (front) came unstuck hours later, and the Ever Given was able to move out.

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