The massive container ship blocking the Suez Canal for almost a week has been turned 80 per cent in the right direction, officials said Monday, raising hopes the vital trade route could soon be clear.
But its owner said that while the giant ship “has turned”, it was still not yet afloat.
The MV Ever Given, longer than four football fields, has been wedged diagonally across the canal since Tuesday, strangling world supply chains and costing the global economy billions.
Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chief Osama Rabie said Monday that rescue efforts with tugs had succeeded in shifting the front and back of the ship.
“The position of the ship has been reorientated 80 per cent in the right direction,” Rabie in a statement.
“The stern… moved to 102 metres (335 feet) from the shore,” compared to its position four metres from the shore previously.
Efforts to refloat it will resume on the next high tide.
The SCA statement said that the refloating process “will resume when water flow increases again from 11:30 local time… in order to completely refloat the vessel, so as to reposition it in the middle of the waterway.”
According to the Vesselfinder and myshiptracking sites, the stern could be seen to have shifted from the canal’s western bank.
An official from the 200,000-tonne ship’s owners, Shoei Kisen, said while the Ever Given “has turned”, it “is not afloat.”
The ship had been “stuck at an angle of 30 degrees towards the canal, but that has eased,” said the official.
“A total of 11 tug boats have been pulling Ever Given since this morning,” they added, saying that while there was damage sustained by the ship on its bow when it got stuck, “but no new damage has been reported.”
It is not yet clear when traffic along the canal will resume.
A canal official was quoted as saying that the team on the ground had started technical checks, and were reassured that the ship’s motor was working.
Salvage crews have been working around the clock.
They had focused on efforts to remove sand around the ship, with 27,000 cubic metres (over 950,000 cubic feet) cleared at a depth of 18 metres, SCA spokesman George Safwat said Sunday.
On Sunday evening a shipping company, Leth agencies, had said Egyptian authorities had decided more tugboats were needed to shift the vessel and had postponed the refloating attempt around Sunday’s high tide.
The Dutch-flagged Alp Guard arrived to join the mission on Sunday evening.
The crisis has forced companies to choose between waiting or rerouting vessels around Africa, which adds a huge fuel bill, 9,000 kilometres and over a week of travel to the trip between Asia and Europe.
Each day of the blockade could be costing global trade some about USD10 billion, according to various studies. That translates to some 0.2 to 0.4 percentage points of annual trade each week. Authorities said 369 ships are currently stalled as they wait for the canal to reopen.
Russia offered assistance Sunday, following other countries including the United States that have made similar offers.
In a sign of the knock-on effects, authorities in war-wracked Syria said the crisis had hit its fuel imports from Iran and forced it to ration already scarce supplies.
Romania’s animal health agency said 11 ships carrying livestock out of the country were also impacted, while the charity Animals International warned of a potential “tragedy” affecting some 130,000 animals.