Tugboats and dredgers joined land-based heavy machinery Friday working to free a giant container ship blocking Egypt’s Suez Canal for a fourth day.
The MV Ever Given has been wedged diagonally across the critical waterway since Tuesday, shutting it in both directions, as Breitbart News reported.
The blockage has caused a huge traffic jam for more than 200 ships at either end of the 193-kilometre (120-mile) long canal and major delays in the delivery of oil and other products.
Despite the efforts of the canal’s operators, the vessel with gross tonnage of 219,000 and deadweight of 199,000 has yet to budge, forcing global shipping giant Maersk and Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd to look into re-routing around the southern tip of Africa.
An official from Shoei Kisen Kaisha, the Japanese company that owns the Ever Given, said Friday crews were still scrambling to refloat the ship.
“Tug boats and dredgers are being used to crush rocks” in efforts to dislodge the boat, she told AFP, adding the company did not have information on any damage to the ship.
Crews were seen working through the night, using a large dredging machine under floodlights alongside shoreside heavy machinery.
“With the Suez Canal set to remain blocked for at least another day or two, shipping companies are being forced to confront the spectre of taking the far longer route around the Cape of Good Hope to get to Europe or the east coast of North America,” said Lloyd’s List, a shipping data and news company.
“The first container ship to do this is Evergreen’s Ever Greet… a sistership to Ever Given,” it said, adding the route takes an additional 12 days.
The exact circumstances surrounds the grounding are still unclear, however Evergreen Marine Corp., a major Taiwan-based shipping company that operates the ship, said in a statement the vessel had been overcome by strong winds as it entered the canal from the Red Sea, but that none of its containers had sunk.
The Suez Canal Authority also blamed bad weather for the incident however others are not so sure.
Shipping expert Rose George said the blockage was certain to cause price increases for consumers around the world.
“It is inevitable there’s going to be some knock-on cost effect,” said George, who passed through the canal on a container ship while researching her book about the industry “90 Percent of Everything”.
She cast doubt on the official reason that gusts of wind caused the ship’s grounding.
“I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that more than two thirds of marine accidents are due to human error,” she told AFP in London.
Lloyd’s List said data indicated that 213 vessels were now stalled at either end of the canal, which drastically shortens travel between Asia and Europe.
The blockage was holding up an estimated $9.6 billion worth of cargo each day between Asia and Europe, it said.
AFP and the Associated Press contributed to this story