Ultra-large container ship Ever Given has been refloated more than six days after the vessel grounded in the Suez Canal, reopening transit through the global shipping shortcut
18:15 30 March 2021
Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority (SCA) has announced the resumption of ship travel through the canal, ending days of waiting for some of the hundreds of vessels gathered around both the north and south entrances to the canal and resuming trade flows on the global trade artery.
From 06:30 local time, the SCA said more than 20 ships entered the canal, heading north for Port Said.
And from 07:00 local time more than a dozen ships entered the canal, heading south for Suez.
Some 37 vessels that had been waiting at Great Bitter Lakes since Ever Given grounded on 23 March and blocked transit through the vital waterway have now exited the canal. A further six vessels were due to resume transit at 14:00 hours, along with 30 ships that entered the canal for southbound transit yesterday (29 March), the SCA said.
Reporting on the moves, Dubai-based port operator GAC said "Further convoys will be arranged subject to changes from time to time by the SCA as per their navigation considerations to speed up transiting for all waiting ships. Details are not announced by the SCA in advance, but convoys in both directions are running around the clock until the backlog of vessels is cleared."
15:30 29 March 2021
Dutch and Japanese salvors working with Egyptian authorities at the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) have managed to free 20,000-TEU Ever Given, more than six days after the vessel grounded and blocked all traffic on the global shipping lane that connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean.
The SCA streamed a video to its Facebook page as salvors freed the vessel, showing Ever Given on the move, surrounded by a battery of tugs and other craft.
Dutch salvage company Boskalis released a celebratory statement praising the work of the team from its subsidiary SMIT Salvage that helped to free the vessel from its position, wedged diagonally across the breadth of the canal near kilometre-marker 151.
Boskalis chief executive Peter Berdowski said “I am excited to announce that our team of experts, working in close collaboration with the Suez Canal Authority, successfully refloated Ever Given on 29 March at 15:05 hrs local time, thereby making free passage through the Suez Canal possible again. I’m extremely proud of the outstanding job done by the team on site as well as the many SMIT Salvage and Boskalis colleagues back home to complete this challenging operation under the watchful eye of the world. The time pressure to complete this operation was evident and unprecedented and the result is a true display of our unique capabilities as a dredging and marine services provider.”
The refloating of the 224,000-tonne ultra-large container vessel required dredgers and shore-side heavy machinery to shift approximately 30,000 m3 of sand, and 11 harbour tugs and two powerful seagoing tugs, Alp Guard and Carlo Magna working in combination, to free the vessel from its sticking point in the eastern bank of the canal.
The Boskalis statement said the vessel had been towed out of the shipping channel for inspection.
Ever Given’s operators Evergreen Line said the vessel was being assisted by tugs to move from the grounding site to a holding area in Great Bitter Lake.
"The chartered vessel will be repositioned to the Great Bitter Lake in the Canal for an inspection of its seaworthiness. The outcome of that inspection will determine whether the ship can resume its scheduled service. Once the inspection is finaliaed, decisions will be made regarding arrangements for the cargo currently on board," the Evergreen statement said. "Evergreen will co-ordinate with the shipowner to deal with subsequent matters after the shipowner and other concerned parties complete investigation reports into the incident."
Shipowner Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd has apologised for the impact the incident has had on global trade in a statement from 25 March.
Shipmanager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) thanked those involved with the refloat and the crew, saying "BSM extends its deepest gratitude to all parties involved in the emergency response, including the Suez Canal Authority, SMIT Salvage and the crew on board, who worked tirelessly to free the vessel and to restore navigability in the Suez Canal."
Management consultancy Vendigital director Paul Adams said the backlog of hundreds of vessels that have sat outside the Suez Canal waiting for the route to clear or rerouted to avoid the closed route would take time to clear.
“At last, the shipping industry can breathe a sigh of relief, but the backlog of vessels could take several weeks to ease," Mr Adams said. "Further up the chain, western companies reliant on raw materials or parts from Asia should expect some disruption to deliveries over the next few weeks. The impact will vary by sector but many manufacturers are dealing with reduced volumes at present."
08:30 am 29 March 2021
Combined work by Egyptian authorities and international salvage experts has succeeded in partly freeing the 20,000 TEU ultra-large container ship Ever Given from where it has been diagonally wedged, blocking travel through the Suez Canal.
The vessel moved and then was pulled mostly free from its sticking point in the canal’s east bank in the early hours of 29 March.
Using reports from the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), Dubai-based Gulf Agency Company (GAC) said the ship’s aft had been completely freed and work will continue to free the vessel’s bow.
"Work to refloat the grounded container vessel blocking the Suez Canal restarted at about 0330 hours local time early today (29 March). By 0450 hours, about 15 tugs involved in the operation had managed to almost refloat the ship," the statement said.
"The ship’s aft was completely freed, while the bow was nearly free, and tugs were continuing to push and pull to move the bow. Work was also still continuing to refloat the bow side of the vessel."
Ever Given’s operators Evergreen Line described significant progress early on Sunday.
"Having removed more than 20,000 tonnes of sand and mud, the dredging operation underway has succeeded in loosening Ever Given’s bow within the bank of the Suez Canal and the ship’s stern has been cleared from the sand bank. The rudder and propeller of the vessel are fully functional and expected to provide additional support to tugboats assigned to move the container ship from the accident site so that normal transit may again resume within the canal," the company said.
Ever Given’s shipmanagers Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement said specialist tugs had arrived on the scene and were assisting in operations and more vessels had been mobilised.
"ALP Guard, a specialist tug registered in the Netherlands, today arrived on scene to assist in the ongoing refloating operations," BSM said.
"Additionally, soil experts have attended the site alongside officials from the SCA to advise on the continuing recovery efforts. An additional dredger, THSD Causeway, registered in Cyprus, is also en route to the scene to provide additional dredging capacity. The vessel is anticipated to arrive by 30 March. Once refloated, the vessel will undergo a full inspection and BSM will co-operate fully with the authorities in any investigations."
In translated text from a Facebook post, the SCA elaborated on the work of tugs on site.
"Lieutenant General Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, announced today, Monday, at dawn, the start of tugging manoeuvres to float the delinquent Panamanian container ship Ever Given by 10 giant tugs operating from four different directions," the SCA said.
"The head of the authority explained that the distribution of the locomotives during the tension manoeuvres includes pulling the bow of the ship in the direction of the north by both the locomotive Baraka 1 and the locomotive Izzat Adel with a force of 160 tonnes each, while 4 locomotives push the stern of the ship southward, and the two new locomotives include Abdul Hamid, Youssef and Mostafa Mahmoud with a force of 70 tonnes each, and the two locomotives Port Said 1 and Port Said 2 are working to tighten the stern of the ship to the south, led by the Dutch APL Guard with a force of 285 tonnes, and the locomotive Maradev in pushing the bow of the ship towards the north. It is worth noting that the Dutch locomotive APL Guard arrived Sunday evening, as part of the Dutch SMIT team, to participate in the efforts to float the delinquent Panamanian container ship."
10:00 pm 26 March 2021
Ever Given shipmanager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) said a further effort to refloat the ultra-large container ship (ULCS) has been unsuccessful.
BSM said two further, more powerful tugs have been requisitioned to aid operations but are not scheduled to arrive until 28 March and that high-capacity water pumps would be positioned in an attempt to reduce ballast water levels in the ship’s forward section.
"Another attempt to refloat the vessel earlier today, 26 March 2021, was not successful. Smit Salvage team on board confirm there will be two additional tugs of 220 – 240-tonne bollard pull arriving by 28 March 2021 to assist in the refloating of the ship," the BSM statement said.
"Arrangements are also being made for high-capacity pumps to reduce the water levels in the forward void space of the vessel and the bow thruster room."
12:00 pm 26 March 2021
As the closure of the Suez Canal entered its fourth day, with little progress made in shifting ultra large container ship (ULCS) Ever Given from its grounded position that is blocking traffic in both directions on the global shipping artery, IMO secretary general Kitack Lim has called for patience in the global supply chain.
"I am aware of the implications of the temporary closure of the canal, and I ask for patience from stakeholders across the supply chain as everyone works to ensure that the ship, its crew, its cargo and the environment remain protected," secretary general Lim said.
Despite hopes that high tides would help the battery of tugs, dredgers, shoreside diggers and machinery to refloat Ever Given, Dubai-based Gulf Agency Company (GAC) reported "no confirmed progress" and "no indication" of when traffic through the shipping lane would resume.
SCA chairman Lieutenant-General Osama Rabie said refloating efforts were concentrating on removing sand from around where the vessel has lodged in the bank of the canal and that tugs had paused pulling efforts.
The vessel’s shipmanagers Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) confirmed "The focus now is on dredging to remove sand and mud from around the port side of the vessel’s bow".
In addition to the dredgers already on site, a specialised suction dredger capable of shifting 2,000 m3 of material every hour is now on site, according to BSM.
The SCA said the dredger Mashhour started working 100 m from the ship on 25 March, moving to within 15 m of the vessel, starting at a depth of half a meter and clearing material to a dredging depth that is now 15 m.
Lieutenant-General Rabie said the dredging works are carried out in observance of the highest standards of navigational safety by maintaining a safe distance estimated at the closest permitted point to approach the ship (about 10 m from the ship). He indicated the dredging would facilitate slumping or material nearer to the vessel sliding away from the vessel to the dredged areas surrounding.
He said efforts from the eight tugs on site would resume "upon the completion of the targeted dredging works, which range from 15,000 to 20,000 m3 of sand".
A video from SCA, below, shows some of the dredging work on site.
17:00 pm 25 March 2021
An update from the Egypt Suez Canal Transit section of the Gulf Agency Company (GAC) said the latest efforts to free the grounded ULCS Ever Given, which is blocking all transit through the Suez Canal, have made no progress.
"Tugboat teams and heavy machines are still battling to nudge the grounded vessel," the GAC said.
The GAC again confirmed the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) is using "at least two dredgers and more than eight powerful tugs along with other local authorities’ assistance" to try to extract the vessel from its sticking point on the banks of the canal.
"Still no confirmed progress reported by SCA in this regard," the GAC said.
The GAC said the SCA’s next attempt for a refloating operation would coincide with the evening’s high tide at just past 21:00 local time.
12:15 pm 25 March 2021
Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority (SCA), which is leading efforts to free the grounded ULCS Ever Given, has confirmed via a Facebook post that traffic through the Suez Canal will continue to be suspended "temporarily".
"Lieutenant General Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, announced that the navigation traffic in the canal will be suspended temporarily, today, Thursday [25 March] until the completion of the floatation work of the giant Panamanian container ship," the post said.
The SCA said eight tugs remain on hand along with shoreside digging machines as work continues to extract the vessel’s bulbous bow from where it knifed into the bank of the canal at kilometre marker 151.
"The efforts to float the ship included tension and propulsion with eight gigantic locomotives, at the forefront the locomotive Baraka 1 with a tensile strength of 160 tonnes," the SCA said.
The grounded container vessel’s owner, Japanese company Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd, apologised for the impact on shipping traffic the incident is causing.
"We sincerely apologise for causing a great deal of concern to the vessels scheduled to sail and their related parties while navigating the Suez Canal due to the accident of this vessel," the statement said.
A statement from vessel operator Evergreen Marine pointed out that liability for the incident sits with the owner of the 2018-built, 20,000-TEU ship.
"As the vessel is chartered, the responsibility for the expense incurred in the recovery operation; third-party liability and the cost of repair (if any) is the owners," the statement said.
Evergreen said that Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd has appointed two salvage teams from the Netherlands, Smit Salvage, and Japan, Nippon Salvage, to work to free the ship.
"These teams will be working with the Captain and the Suez Canal Authority to design a more effective plan for refloating the vessel as soon as possible," the statement said.
The vessel’s shipmanagers, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement released an updated statement at midday GMT on 25 March to say the morning’s attempts at refloating the vessel were unsuccessful and that another attempt would be made later in the day.
"Dredging operations to assist refloating the vessel continue. In addition to the dredgers already on site a specialised suction dredger has arrived at the location," the BSM statement said.
09:00 am 25 March 2021
Dredgers are working to clear sand and mud from around the grounded ULCS to free the vessel, according to shipmanager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM). An updated statement from the group said tugs are working in conjunction with Ever Given’s onboard winches to shift the vessel.
Dubai-based ports, logistics and services provider GAC said seven tugs from the Suez Canal authority are on hand to try to shift the vessel, which images have shown positioned almost entirely blocking the man-made waterway.
GAC said between 23-24 March alone, since Ever Given’s grounding has stopped traffic through the Suez Canal, more than 100 vessels had been impacted.
23 March 2021
30 ships entered the canal and waiting in Great Bitter Lake
15 ships waiting in Suez anchorage
24 March 2021
36 ships entered the canal with 13 mooring and waiting in Great Bitter Lake and the remainder waiting in Port Said outer anchorage
27 ships waiting in Suez outer anchorage
BSM said Ever Given had two canal pilots on board when winds caused the vessel to ground during its northbound transit through the canal en route to Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
"There have been no reports of injuries, pollution or cargo damage and initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding," BSM said.
18:15 pm 24 March 2021
A container ship that ran aground, blocking the Suez Canal and causing a backlog remains an impediment to traffic despite incorrect reports that the convoy was on the move and that the vessel had been refloated and positioned along the bank of the global shipping shortcut.
An email from the vessel’s shipmanagement company BSM confirmed that the earlier reports were in error.
"The vessel remains aground and efforts to refloat it are ongoing in close co-operation with the Suez Canal Authority," a BSM spokesperson told Riviera Maritime Media.
A statement on the BSM website gave a description of activities.
"Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, technical manager of the container ship Ever Given (IMO: 9709257), is working with local authorities and service providers to refloat the vessel following a grounding incident which occurred at about 05:40 UTC on 23 March 2021 in the Suez Canal due to strong winds as the vessel was en route to Rotterdam, the Netherlands," the statement said.
"All crew are safe and accounted for. There have been no reports of injuries, pollution or cargo damage and initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding," the statement continued. "BSM’s immediate priorities are to safely refloat the vessel and for marine traffic in the Suez Canal to safely resume. The continued efforts of the Suez Canal Authority and those involved in ongoing refloating operations are greatly appreciated and BSM will continue to work closely with all parties involved in this operation. Once refloated, the vessel will undergo a full inspection and BSM will co-operate fully with the relevant authorities on reports of the incident."
Earlier, marine logistics and services provider Gulf Agency Company (GAC) contributed information to reports citing the Suez Canal Authority, that the grounded vessel had been partially refloated and was alongside the Canal bank.
"Convoys and traffic are expected to resume as soon as the vessel is towed to another position," it added.
GAC later retracted some of the information and told Riviera Maritime Media in an email, "Vessel still grounded in canal bank side despite partially refloated, but still need more effort to fully refloat and to be towed to another position. Convoy [in] both directions not yet resumed."
With some eight tugs on site, a statement from the Suez Canal Authority Facebook page referred to the "intensive efforts made by the rescue units and the Authority’s tugs to rescue and float the giant Panamanian container ship Ever Given, which ran aground at the 151 km" mark.
10:00 am 24 March 2021
Evergreen Marine’s 20,000-TEU Ever Given box ship is reported to have been blown off course by strong winds and a dust storm yesterday (23 March), causing its bow to become lodged in the canal’s eastern bank and the vessel to come to a halt diagonally across the canal, blocking traffic.
Some eight tugboats were mobilised in an attempt to move the 400-m long container ship, whose grounding caused a backlog of vessels.
GAC website reported the transit of 15 ships had been blocked by the grounding and were waiting at anchorages. GAC added that wind conditions and the size of the vessel – an ultra large container ship with capacity of 20,000 TEU – had hindered operations.
Smit Salvage and Nippon Salvage Company were contracted by the vessel’s onwners Shoei Kisen Kaisha in a joint contract using Lloyd’s Open Form.
SeaIntelligence Consulting chief executive Lars Jensen advised other shipping companies on a LinkedIn post to “weigh up their options” before proceeding to the canal.
He commented “If [vessel operators] are optimistic on the timeframe, they should proceed as per normal and ’just’ get delayed a few days. But if they are more pessimistic, they should be contemplating diverting vessels to take the long route south around Africa on Asia-North Europe and Asia-USEC services. This will take approximately one week more than the Suez routing – and also burn more fuel," he said.
Mr Jensen warned “In the pessimistic case, however, there is another effect. The longer the canal is closed, the larger a queue of vessels will be lined up to transit. This can create a backlog meaning that additional waiting times must be anticipated even when the canal does open up again.”
There also have been reports of a second accident on the Suez Canal after a bulker and Russian military tanker collided.
Ship groundings in the Suez Canal are regular occurrences with maritime accidents reported almost every month and Egyptian tugs regularly mobilised to assist.
A previous incident occurred on 15 February when container ship CMA CGM Titus ran aground in the Suez Canal and tugs were mobilised to refloat the 2011-built ship and enable it to resume its northern transit to Lebanon and then to Piraeus, Greece.
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