Shoei Kisen, the Japanese owner of a container ship stuck in the Suez Canal that is holding up potentially billions of dollars of traded goods, apologized on Thursday (March 25) and added that it was working towards a resolution of the situation.
It said getting the ship moving was “extremely difficult”, but that there were no injuries or oil spillage caused by it running aground.
We sincerely apologize for causing a great deal of concern,” the company said in an English statement more than 24 hours after the grounding.
It said there was 25 crew on board, all of them of Indian nationality. The ship was fully laden with consumer goods bound for European markets in 20,000 standard shipping containers.
A container ship blocking the Suez Canal may take weeks to free.
Taiwanese ship blocks US$9.6 billion in Suez canal trade per day.
A gargantuan Taiwanese container ship stranded in the Suez Canal is delaying US$9.6 billion worth of maritime traffic per day.
The Panama-flagged Ever Given, operated by Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine Corp., became wedged sideways in the middle of the canal on Tuesday (March 23). Following reports the vessel had been partially refloated, a spokesman for Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), the vessel’s technical managers, said the ship is still grounded and reports to the contrary are “inaccurate.”
According to data from Lloyd’s List, on average, over 50 vessels navigate the canal on a daily basis, while 165 ships are currently stalled on either end of the waterway. The shipping journal estimates that daily westbound traffic through the canal is worth US$5.1 billion, while daily eastbound traffic is valued at US$4.5 billion, for a total of US$9.6 billion or US$400 million per hour.
Approximately 30 percent of the world’s shipping container volume passes through the Suez Canal. About 12 percent of the world’s trade volume passes through the Suez Canal.
According to salvage experts, the best time to try to extricate the behemoth will be at high tide, which will occur on Sunday and Monday (March 27 and 28). However, if tugs are unable to free the ship by then, the next opportunity will not come around for 12 to 14 days.
Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said nine tugs were working to move the vessel, which got stuck diagonally across the single-lane southern stretch of the canal on Tuesday morning amid high winds and a dust storm.
“We can’t exclude it might take weeks, depending on the situation,” Peter Berdowski, CEO of Dutch company Boskalis, one of two rescue teams trying to free the ship, told the Dutch television programme “Nieuwsuur”.
A total of 206 large container ships, tankers carrying oil and gas, and bulk vessels hauling grain have backed up at either end of the canal, according to tracking data, creating one of the worst shipping jams seen for years.
The blockage comes on top of the disruption to world trade already caused in the past year by COVID-19, with trade volumes hit by high rates of ship cancellations, shortages of containers and slower handling speeds at ports.
SCA, which had allowed some vessels to enter the canal in the hope the blockage could be cleared, said it had temporarily suspended all traffic on Thursday. Maersk said in a customer advisory it had seven vessels affected.
Berdowski said the ship’s bow and stern had been lifted up against either side of the canal.
“It is like an enormous beached whale. It’s an enormous weight on the sand. We might have to work with a combination of reducing the weight by removing containers, oil and water from the ship, tug boats and dredging of sand.”
Japanese shipowner Shoei Kisen apologised for the incident and said work on freeing the ship, which was heading to Europe from China, “has been extremely difficult” and it was not clear when the vessel would float again.
Dredgers were working to clear sand and mud from around it while tugboats in conjunction with Ever Given’s winches work to shift it, the vessel’s technical manager, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), said.
Another official with knowledge of the operation said that was likely to take days. “If you end up in the scenario that you have to remove cargo then you are looking at a time-consuming exercise,” he said, declining to be named.
A higher tide due on Sunday may help the rescue efforts.
Roughly 30% of the world’s shipping container volume transits through the 193 km (120 miles) Suez Canal daily, and about 12% of the total global trade of all goods.
“Every port in Western Europe is going to feel this,” Leon Willems, a spokesman for Rotterdam Port, Europe’s largest, said. “We hope for both companies and consumers that it will be resolved soon.”