The container ship Ever Given has been refloated after a seven-day blockade of the Suez Canal. On Monday, salvage teams rescued the massive container ship trapped in the Suez Canal for nearly a week, ending a crisis that had clogged one of the world’s most important waterways and disrupted billions of dollars in maritime trade.
A flotilla of tugboats, helped by the tides, yanked the Ever Given’s bulbous bow from the canal’s sandy bank, where it had been securely stuck since March 23.
After days of futile effort that captivated the world, attracting attention and social media scorn, the tugs blared their horns in joy as they led the Ever Given through the canal.
Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, the salvage company entrusted with removing the Ever Given, announced:
“We pulled it off! “I am excited to announce that our team of experts, working in close collaboration with the Suez Canal Authority, successfully refloated the Ever Given on 29 March at 15:05 hrs local time, thereby making free passage through the Suez Canal possible again,” said Peter Berdowski, the CEO of salvage firm Boskalis.
The big ship is on its way to the Great Bitter Lake, a vast body of water halfway between the north and south ends of the canal, where it will be inspected, according to Evergreen Marine Corp., the ship’s director.
According to canal services company Leth Agencies, more than 40 vessels anchored at the Great Bitter Lake waiting for the Ever Given to be released have resumed their southbound journey through the waterway.
It is estimated that over 30 southbound vessels anchored off the Mediterranean city of Port Said will also begin their canal journey.
The Ever Given had crashed into a bank of a single-lane stretch of the canal about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) north of the southern entrance, near the city of Suez, after being buffeted by a sandstorm. This resulted in a major traffic jam, which slowed world trade by $9 billion per day and disrupted supply chains still strained by the coronavirus pandemic.
At least 367 boats are lined up waiting to navigate the canal, transporting everything from crude oil to cattle. Hundreds of ships have taken the long, indirect path across Africa’s southern tip, the Cape of Good Hope—a 5,000-kilometer (3,100-mile) detour that has cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and other expenses.
According to the data firm Refinitiv, Egypt has lost over $95 million in tolls, despite the canal being a source of national pride and critical revenue. President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who had been quiet about the situation for days, lauded Monday’s events.
The President posted on Facebook: “Egyptians have succeeded in ending the crisis,” and “despite the massive technical complexity.”
Residents in the village of Amer, which overlooks the river, celebrated as the vessel passed. Many rushed to get a better look, while others mockingly waved farewell from their clover fields to the departing ship.
Villager Abdalla Ramadan declared, “Mission accomplished. … Everyone in the universe feels relieved.”
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo sent out a tweet congratulating Egypt.
Although the canal is now open, it is uncertain when daily traffic can resume. Analysts predict that clearing the backlog on both sides would take at least another 10 days.
The breakthrough was made after days of a concerted effort by an elite rescue team from the Netherlands. Tugboats pushed and pulled to move the behemoth away from the shore, aided by a high tide early Monday that enabled the ship to partially refloat. Dredgers with special equipment cleaned out the stern and vacuumed sand and mud from under the bow.
The operation had to be done with great caution. The rising and falling tides put stress on the Ever Given, 400 meters (a quarter-mile) long, raising fears that it could crack or break when trapped.
The tug crews were “ecstatic,” but there was a nervous moment when the massive ship was floating free, and he said that “so then you have to get it under control very quickly with the tugs around it so that it doesn’t push itself back into the other side” of the canal.