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Suez Canal backlog of ships to clear through week: carriers

THE salvage firm hired to free the Ever Given box ship from the banks of the Suez Canal says the refloating of the 20,000 TEU vessel to allow other vessels to transit the waterway has been successful and that the backlog of ships could potentially be cleared by the end of the week, reports IHS Media

31 March 2021 - 19:00
THE salvage firm hired to free the Ever Given box ship from the banks of the Suez Canal says the refloating of the 20,000 TEU vessel to allow other vessels to transit the waterway has been successful and that the backlog of ships could potentially be cleared by the end of the week, reports IHS Media.

The refloating will allow ocean carriers to start moving vessels that are already at anchorage at the northern and southern ends of the canal to start moving and halt further diversions along the African cape.



However, the incident means that schedule reliability will remain out of whack for weeks until all the vessels affected by the blockage can resume regular transits.



Marine engineering and project firm Boskalis said that its team from subsidiary Smit Salvage and the Suez Canal Authority refloated the ship at about 3 pm local time on Tuesday.



Boskalis said the refloating effort required the deployment of two 'powerful seagoing tugs' in addition to the 11 tugs operated by the Suez Canal Authority. Along with the tugs, some 103,000 square feet of sand was removed.



Boskalis CEO Peter Berdowski said in a statement: 'I am excited to announce that our team of experts, working in close collaboration with the Suez Canal Authority, successfully refloated the Ever Given, thereby making free passage through the Suez Canal possible again.'



Leth Agencies, the Suez's main shipping agency, also confirmed that the Evergreen-operated ship is now under tow to an anchorage at a midpoint in the canal for further inspection.



Evergreen Marine, the ship's operator, said once the inspection has been completed, it will determine whether the Ever Given can resume its scheduled service to Rotterdam, where it was expected to arrive on March 31, according to project44's Ocean Insights data.



Evergreen said in a statement: 'We are most grateful to the Suez Canal Authority and all the concerned parties for their assistance and support through this difficult and unfortunate situation.



'We would also like to express our deepest appreciation to the crew who remain steadfast in their posts as well as the salvage experts and dredging team for their professionalism and relentless efforts over the past 6 days toward securing this outcome.'



According to Leth Agencies the number of vessels currently waiting to transit the canal reached 367 as of Monday. That included 96 container ships, up from 53 container ships reported earlier.



Hapag-Lloyd said in a statement that the damaged area of the canal where the 224,000-tonne container ship ran aground will be inspected and repaired if necessary. The Hamburg-based ocean carrier said it expected transits to start late Tuesday, adding that the current backlog of ships waiting to move through the canal could be cleared within four days.



Hapag-Lloyd said it has nine ships at Suez anchorages currently waiting to transit. It said it will not reroute any more vessels around the Cape of Good Hope, aside from the six it had already sent the long way around Africa as of Friday.



Even with the opening, however, Hapag-Lloyd said it wasn't sure when vessels would be able to catch back up to their regular schedules.



'We currently do not know the exact ETA of our affected vessels, but we will do our utmost to optimise the rotations in order to minimise potential bottlenecks at ports and terminals,' the carrier said.



Maersk said in a customer update prior to the refloating that it has a total of 32 vessels currently stuck in the canal or at one of the anchorages. It had to reroute 15 vessels around the African cape.



Maersk said clearing the Suez backlog could take up to six days or more. It warned that the resulting vessel bunching as ships discharge their cargo as quickly as possible to resume a regular schedule means ports can expect further congestion.



'Even when the canal gets reopened, the ripple effects on global capacity and equipment are significant and the blockage has already triggered a series of further disruptions and backlogs in global shipping that could take weeks, possibly months, to unravel,' Maersk said on Monday.


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