TAIPEI (Taiwan News) —In the worst-case scenario, it may take up to two weeks to free the massive Taiwanese container ship stuck in the Suez Canal, drastically impacting one of the most important trade arteries in the world.
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). Given that about 12 percent of the world’s trade volume passes through the Suez Canal, compared to 6 percent for the Panama Canal, any major delay in dislodging the vessel will cause a major disruption in global shipping.
On Wednesday (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 ship is among a new class of ultra-large container ships that are too wide to pass through the Panama Canal. It is laden with products from China and bound for the Dutch port city of Rotterdam.
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.
Bloomberg cited salvage master Nick Sloane as saying that the spring tide that arrives Sunday and Monday will provide an additional 46 centimeters of depth, which will allow more room to maneuver. Sloane said the canal authority will take another crack at moving the vessel Thursday (March 25) by employing an additional four or five tugboats.
He added that dredgers are clearing sand from around the ship in hopes this will enable it to reverse. Sloane said that if that does not work, the next stage will be to purge the ballast water and drain the fuel.
However, if efforts to liberate the ship fail by Monday, Sloane warned that the tides will not rise significantly again for about two weeks. If that is the case, the impact on shipping between the Mediterranean and the Red seas will be substantial, as 50 cargo ships and 1.45 million barrels of crude oil normally pass through the canal each day.