The world’s most costly traffic jam continues to hold the public’s attention as the 400m-long MV Ever Given remains firmly wedged on the bank of the Suez Canal.
But without a livestream of the efforts to refloat the 200,000-tonne vessel that veered off course and ran aground in a sandstorm on Tuesday, it can be hard to stay up to date with the latest developments.
To fill that space, interactive maps are showing the sheer number of vessels lined up at both ends of the canal waiting in hopes that earth movers can somehow expel 20,000 cubic metres of sand around the bow of the ship.
Satellite pictures released by Planet Labs Inc show the “megaship”, which is operated by Evergreen Marine Corp, wedged diagonally across the entire canal.
The above image, captured live on MyShipTracking on Friday morning, shows tug boats surrounding the monster cargo ship with dozens of vessels yet to make the difficult decision whether they should take a reverse course and travel around Africa instead – adding at least 10 days to their journey.
The Suez Canal Authority is doing its part to keep viewers up to speed, releasing videos of efforts to get traffic moving again through one of the world’s most vital shipping lanes.
The videos, cut together with a gripping soundtrack, show … quite frankly … not a lot happening despite best efforts.
That’s because of the ship’s massive scale – it is so long it measures front to back the same distance as the height of the Empire State Building.
On the third day of the crisis, global shipping giant Maersk and Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd both said they were looking into taking the longer route.
Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority said it was doing all it could to refloat the vessel using tug boats, dredgers and heavy earth-moving equipment, but so far the ship has not budged.
“It’s really a heavy whale on the beach, so to speak,” said Peter Berdowski, head of Dutch firm Smit Salvage, which previously worked on the stranded Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia and the sunken Russian nuclear submarine Kursk.
The salvage company was deploying a team to the site on Thursday to assess what it would take to dislodge the Rotterdam-bound ship, said Mr Berdowski.
“I don’t want to speculate, but it can take days or weeks,” he told Dutch TV news program Nieuwsuur on Wednesday.
With ships waiting in both the Mediterranean and Red Sea and in the canal, the SCA announced it was “temporarily suspending navigation” along the waterway.
Japanese ship-leasing firm Shoei Kisen Kaisha, the owner of the giant vessel, said it was facing “extreme difficulty” trying to refloat it.
“We sincerely apologise for causing a great deal of worry to ships in the Suez Canal and those planning to go through the canal,” it said in a statement.
A MarineTraffic map showed large clusters of vessels circling as they waited in both the Mediterranean to the north and the Red Sea to the south.
Oil prices had jumped by almost six per cent on Wednesday in response to the Suez Canal accident, before dropping again on Thursday.
The vessel’s technical manager, Singapore-based Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, said the 25 crew aboard were unhurt and the hull and cargo undamaged.
“The ultimate responsibility for the ship’s safety lies with the captain,” former Suez Canal Authority chairman Mohab Mamish said.
Historic sections of the canal were reopened on Wednesday in a bid to ease the congestion.
The Suez is an “absolutely critical” route, Boston Consulting Group maritime transport specialist Camille Egloff said.
Nearly 19,000 ships passed through the canal last year carrying more than one billion tonnes of cargo, according to the SCA as Egypt earned $5.61 billion in revenues.
Canal traffic has been disrupted several times in the past, notably during the Arab-Israeli wars of the second half of the 20th century.
It was closed for six months after Egypt nationalised the canal operating company in 1956, prompting an abortive invasion by Britain, France and Israel.
More recently, in 2018, the canal was temporarily closed after a Greek-owned bulk carrier suffered engine failure, triggering a five-ship collision.
– with AFP