TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A giant Taiwanese container ship has become stuck in the Suez Canal, halting all shipping traffic in the vital international trading route.
The Panama-flagged Ever Given, which is operated by Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine Corp., became wedged sideways in the middle of the canal on Tuesday (March 23). Based on images taken of the vessel from a trailing ship, its stern is lodged against the western bank of the canal, while its bow touches the eastern bank.
According to ship-tracking website MarineTraffic, the 400 meter-long Ever Given is approximately 6 kilometers north of the southern end of the canal, near the city of Suez. Based on the website’s map of the area, approximately 28 vessels are waiting directly to the north of the Ever Given in the Great Bitter Lake, while around 100 ships of various kinds are loitering to the south in the Gulf of Suez.
CNA cited Evergreen as saying it suspects that at about 8 a.m. local time, the Ever Given was “hit by sudden strong winds at 6 nautical miles south of the estuary, causing the ship to deviate from the channel and accidentally hit bottom and run aground.” The company said it “urged the shipowner to report the cause of the accident and has worked out a plan with related units, such as the canal administration, to assist the container ship in getting out of trouble as soon as possible.”
The ship is among a new class of ultra-large container ships that are too wide to pass through the Panama Canal. It was originally laden with products from China bound for the Dutch port city of Rotterdam.
Excavator dwarfed by massive ship trying to help dislodge it. (Twitter, Marcel Dirsus)
On Thursday (March 24), Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications stated that according to the local port authority, the ship had been knocked off course by powerful winds. It said eight tugboats had been dispatched Wednesday to try and dislodge the ship, but to no avail.
The tugboat crews are waiting for high tide to make another attempt. If this proves unsuccessful, the Ever Given’s crew may consider unloading cargo to expedite the process, and Evergreen has contacted experts and insurance companies seeking solutions.
Approximately 12 percent of the world’s trade volume passes through the Suez Canal. Salvatore R. Mercogliano, a former merchant mariner and associate professor of history at North Carolina’s Campbell University, told AP that an average of 50 cargo ships per day pass through the canal and that any disruption would have a serious impact on shipping between the Mediterranean and the Red Seas.
Included in this trade are vast quantities of oil and petroleum-based products. For example, 1.45 million barrels of crude oil and 700,000 barrels of naphtha pass through the canal each day, according to Anoop Singh, head of East of Suez tanker research at Braemar ACM Shipbroking.