The ship was ultimately set free at around 3pm, according to shipping officials. Horns blared in celebration as images emerged on social media of the once stuck ship on the move.
But just as the tides rose and fell, optimism waxed and waned throughout the day Monday as each bit of encouraging news was met with words of caution.
The stern, or the back of the ship, was clearly free from the land early Monday. But for hours until the ship was finally freed, it had remained uncertain if the ship’s bow had been truly pulled from the mud and muck on the banks of the canal. Salvage crews had worked around a schedule largely dictated by the tides: working to make progress during the six hours it would take for the water to go from low point to high and then back again.
With a full moon Sunday, the following 24 hours had offered the best window to work, with a few extra inches of tidal flow providing a vital assist for their efforts.
Throughout the night Sunday and into Monday, tugboats worked in coordination with dredgers to return the 220,000-ton vessel to the water.
Then, just before dawn, the ship slowly regained buoyancy. It was a turning point in one of the largest and most intense salvage operations in modern history, with the smooth functioning of the global trading system hanging in the balance.
The army of machine operators, engineers, tugboat captains and other salvage operators knew they were in a race against time.
Each day of blockage put global supply chains another day closer to a full-blown crisis. Vessels packed with the world’s goods – including cars, oil, livestock and laptops – usually flow through the canal with ease, supplying much of the globe as they traverse the quickest path from Asia and the Middle East to Europe and the East Coast of the United States. With concerns that the salvage operation could take weeks, some ships decided not to wait, turning to take the long way around the southern tip of Africa, a voyage that can add weeks to the journey and more than $26,000 a day in fuel costs.
Each bit of progress in moving the ship over the weekend was celebrated by the workers on the canal – tugboat horns blaring and shouts of joy often echoing in the desert dark.
Late Saturday, tugboat drivers sounded off in celebration of what was up to that point the most visible sign of progress since the Ever Given ran aground late Tuesday.
The 1,300-foot ship moved. It did not go far – just two degrees, or about 100 feet, according to officials. But that came on top of progress from Friday, when officials said dredgers had managed to dig out the rear of the ship, freeing its rudder.