What is Suez Canal
Suez Canal is one of the world’s most important trading routes. It was opened in the year 1869. Around 12% of total global trade was done through Suez Canal. Approximately 50 ships per day traveled through the canal. The canal is not wide enough that two ships can pass through at one time. So, the ships take time to pass through the Suez canal. Although an expansion project is underway but still not completed. Bill Kavanagh, a National Maritime College of Ireland lecturer, and former captain have described sailing through the Suez Canal as “a very complex and high-risk operation”. Wind gusts will cause the container areas of vessels to “act like a sail”. This affects the course of the ship in already a narrowed down Suez Canal. The momentum of a heavy ship, such as Ever Given, is difficult to counteract if blown off course.
What actually happened in Suez Canal?
On 23rd March 2021, at 5:40 UTC (7:40 EGY). Ever Given was traveling through the Suez Canal, when it was caught in the sandstorm. The strong winds, which reached 74 km/h (46 mph), lost the ability to steer the ship. Which led to the hull being deviate. The ship then ran aground at the 151 km mark and turned sideways, blocking the canal on both sides while being stuck there. The crew consisting of Indian nationals was accounted and no injuries were reported. At the time of the incident, the ship was traveling from Malaysia to the port of Rotterdam, Netherlands. It was fifth in the northbound convoy when fifteen vessels behind it when it ran aground.
According to an analysis of data ship-tracking websites, the bank effect may cause the stern of a ship to swing toward the near bank. While operating in the constructing waterway, may have contributed to the grounding. Not only that other forces such as lateral forces of west-to-east winds pushing sideways against the northbound ship.
Over 300 vessels at both ends of the canal were obstructed by Ever Given, including five other container ships of similar size. These included 41 bulk carriers and 24 crude oil tankers. Some docked at ports and anchorages in the area, while others just remained there.
Response to this incident
In the immediate aftermath of the grounding. A team of experts worked in close collaboration with the Canal Authority. Calculating the timing and direction of efforts, and coordinating a team of Egyptian, Dutch, and Japanese workers. Tugs were needed to apply force to move the ship, by towing or pushing. High-capacity pumps were to reduce or redistribute the weight of fuel oil and water ballast on the ship. Large floating cranes could be brought to remove containers, but this would be a slow and difficult operation. But all of this would be a slow and difficult operation. Some Egyptian officials suggested the possibility of using heavy life helicopters but none are capable of lifting a fully laden shipping container, which weighs about 30,480 kilograms (67,200 lb).
At first, the vessels were moved from behind Ever Given to make room for the refloating operation. Fuel and nine thousand tones of ballast water were removed from the ship. By 25th March, eight tugboats were assisting in the attempt to pull it free. Chief Executive of Boskalis, stated on 25 March that such an operation “can take days to weeks”. On the same day, the SCA suspended navigation through the Suez Canal until Ever Given could be refloated.
On 27th March, the team investigated, and later it was found out that the ship has not taken any damage. This was clearly a good sign as the ship will be able to move once removed from the Canal. The following day Ever Given moved slightly around 56ft towards the north. By the 27th of March, more than 300 ships have been delayed on both ends of the Suez Canal. While they were stuck in the middle of the canal, others were still approaching and others having altered their routes.
Following the incident
On 28th March, SCA chairman Rabie said that water has been running under the ship again, and that “at any time the ship could slide and move from the spot it is in”. The incident forced a need to investigate issues of supply chain resilience and disruption to just-in-time manufacturing already facing shortages from Covid-19 pandemic impacts.
On 29th March, the stern of Ever Given was refloated at 4.30 local time and a second seagoing tug. The Italian Carlo Magno with a bollard pull of 153 tones arrived. This gave a further large increase in towing capacity. Ballast was adjusted and towing timed to make maximum use of the ebbing tidal flow. At 15:05 local time, the ship was pulled free, following the King ride of a super moon. It took 14 tug boats at high tide to dislodge the 224,000-ton vessel.
After the research of the bottom and soil of the Suez Canal had found it was sound and had no issues. More than 400 ships were waiting by the time traffic through the Suez Canal resumed. Divers and the lead investigator for the SCA started inspecting the ship for damange, as well finding out the ultimate cause of the grounding.
At the end
Various internet memes about the incident have been published. With many jokes on the side. Many people posted there personal interpretations relating to the incident. Suggestions on twitter were also posted but most of them were in a joking manner, just to mock the authorities and the damages they have caused due to this incident. On the day that the Ever Given was unblocked, Google celebrated the even by adding in an Easter egg where searching “Suez Canal” or “Ever Given” would display an animation of boats moving along the sidebar.