The Ever Given, owned by Japanese firm Shoei Kisen KK, got wedged Tuesday in a single-lane stretch of the canal, about 6 kilometers north of the southern entrance, near the city of Suez.
At a news conference Friday night at company headquarters in Imabari, western Japan, Shoei Kisen President Yukito Higaki said 10 tugboats were deployed and workers were dredging the banks and sea floor near the vessel’s bow to try to get it afloat again as the high tide starts to go out.
“We apologize for blocking the traffic and causing the tremendous trouble and worry to many people, including the involved parties,” he said.
Shoei Kisen said in a statement Saturday that the company has considered removing its containers to get the weight off the vessel, but it is a very difficult operation, physically speaking. The company said it may still consider that option if the ongoing refloating efforts fail.
A team from Boskalis, a Dutch firm specializing in salvaging, was working with the canal authority using tugboats and a specialized suction dredger at the port side of the cargo ship’s bow. Egyptian authorities have prohibited media access to the site.
“It’s a complex technical operation” that will require several attempts to free the vessel, Lt Gen Osama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority, said in a statement.
Attempts earlier Friday to free it failed, said Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the technical manager of the Ever Given.
The Suez Canal Authority has said it welcomed international assistance. The White House said it has offered to help Egypt reopen the canal. “We have equipment and capacity that most countries don’t have and we’re seeing what we can do and what help we can be, US President Joe Biden told reporters.
An initial investigation showed the vessel ran aground due to strong winds and ruled out mechanical or engine failure, the company said. GAC, a global shipping and logistics company, had previously said the ship had experienced a power blackout, but it did not elaborate.
Bernhard Schulte said two canal pilots had been aboard when the ship got stuck. Such an arrangement is customary, but the ship’s captain retains ultimate authority over the vessel, according to experts.
In addition to the over 200 vessels waiting near the canal, more than 100 ships were en route to the waterway, according to the data firm Refinitiv.
Apparently anticipating long delays, the owners of the stuck vessel diverted a sister ship, the Ever Greet, to head around Africa instead, according to satellite data.
Others also are being diverted. The liquid natural gas carrier Pan Americas changed course in the mid-Atlantic, now aiming south to go around the southern tip of Africa, according to satellite data from MarineTraffic.com.
About 10% of world trade flows through the canal, which is particularly crucial for transporting oil. The closure also could affect oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East.
Oil markets are absorbing the disruption for now, said analyst Toril Bosoni.
“Oil inventories have been coming down but they are still relatively ample,” he told The Associated Press, adding that he believes the impact might be more pronounced in the tanker sector than in the oil industry.
“We are not losing any oil supply but it will tie up tankers for longer if they have to go around” the tip of Africa, he said, which is roughly an additional two-week trip.
At the White House, Psaki added that the U.S. does see “some potential impacts on energy markets from the role of the Suez Canal as a key bidirectional transit route for oil. … We’re going to continue to monitor market conditions and we’ll respond appropriately if necessary, but it is something we’re watching closely.”
Freeing the Ever Given is “quite a challenge” and could take five days to a week, .Capt. Nick Sloane, a maritime salvage expert who led the high-profile effort to salvage the cruise ship Costa Concordia in 2012 told the AP.