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Dislodging the container ship blocking the Suez Canal could take 'days to weeks'

   March 25, 2021 7:05 AM
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by Mostafa Salem, Pamela Boykoff, Mick Krever and Reuters

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Container ship blocking the Suez Canal Vessel jamming world's busiest trade routes
(CNN) Shipping experts believe it could take days or even weeks to free the 224,000-ton vessel that is wedged across the Suez Canal, blocking one of the world's busiest waterways since Tuesday.

The Ever Given, a container ship almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall, ran aground on March 23 after being caught in 40-knot winds and a sandstorm that caused low visibility and poor navigation, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said in a statement.

Dislodging the vessel could take "days to weeks, depending on what you come across," according to Peter Berdowski the CEO of Boskalis, whose sister company SMIT salvage is now working to free the ship.

Berdowski told Dutch TV on Wednesday that his company had determined it was impossible to free the ship with its current cargo on board. "The ship with the weight that it [has] now has is impossible to pull," he said. "You can forget about that."

The first step would be to remove fuel oil and ballast water from the ship, he added, and try to move it at high tide. If that doesn't work, staff will have to remove containers and try to dig or flush away the sand banks in which the ship is now lodged, Berdowski said.

SMIT has worked on several high-profile salvage operations in the past, including the Costa Concordia, which was grounded off the coast of Italy in 2012. A senior canal pilot at the SCA told CNN Wednesday that re-floating the massive vessel is "technically very complicated" and could take days. The official -- who spoke on condition of anonymity as he's not authorized to speak to the media -- said the equipment to float the ship is available but it depends on how it is used. "If the method is not correct it might take a week, and if it's done well it might take two days," he said. The SCA has officially suspended traffic in the waterway as efforts continue to dislodge the vessel jamming up one of the world's busiest trade routes. The vessel, which measures 400 meters long and 59 meters wide, continues to block transit in both directions through the key shipping channel. Dozens of cargo vessels carrying vital goods remain stranded at both ends of the canal.

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