ContainersEuropeMiddle EastOperations

Evergreen vessel shifts, giving hope that the Suez could be unblocked soon

Day six of the Suez blockage and some glimmer of hope that the giant 199,629 dwt Ever Given containership could shift from its precarious position, aground straddling the Suez Canal.

The Evergreen-operated boxship has been halting global trade since Tuesday when it veered starboard and became wedged in the eastern bank of the Suez Canal, a sea lane that carries 12% of all global trade.

Refloating operations stopped at 23.00 hrs last night, while dredging continues at pace. Another refloating attempt will take place with 14 tugs at 16.00 hrs today.

Water has started running underneath the vessel

In an update, Inchcape Shipping Services revealed the ship shifted yesterday, something that was greeted with elation by the attending tugs. Both the ship’s propeller and its rudder had been freed from the mud earlier in the ongoing operations.

While many joked at the scale of the digger at the bow of the Ever Given in the first days of this Suez crisis, it has become clear what the machine was doing – making space for the world’s largest cutter dredger, the Mashour (pictured). Owned by the Suez Canal Authority, the 140m long vessel is now hard at work. What it needs to work is a water flow to the cutter head, something the digger achieved in the first days of the grounding.

A total of 9,000 tonnes of ballast water have been pumped out of the 20,388 teu boxship and SMIT Salvage, one of two contracted salvage teams brought onboard, has indicated it is ready to start taking some containers off the ship to further lighten it.

General Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, said in a press conference yesterday afternoon that water had started running underneath the vessel.

“We expect that at any time the ship could slide and move from the spot it is in,” he said.

While the ship’s owner, operator and manager have indicated high winds were to blame for the accident, the Suez Canal boss suggested other reasons might have been responsible.

Rabie said weather conditions were “not the main reasons” for the ship’s grounding.

“There may have been technical or human errors,” he told reporters, without giving details. “All of these factors will become apparent in the investigation.”

As of midnight there were 326 ships waiting to transit the canal in both directions, up from around 100 on the Tuesday when the Ever Given ran into difficulties.

Caroline Becquart, senior vice president at Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), the world’s second largest containerline, warned yesterday of the severe challenges to global supply chains the grounding had created.

“There’s no doubt that the current Suez Canal blockage is going to result in one of the biggest disruptions to global trade in recent years,” Becquart warned as her company and a host of other shipping lines reroute ships via the Cape of Good Hope to avoid the lengthening snarl-up in the Middle East.

“We envisage the second quarter of 2021 being more disrupted than the first three months, and perhaps even more challenging than it was at the end of last year. Companies should expect the Suez blockage to lead to a constriction in shipping capacity and equipment, and consequently, some deterioration in supply chain reliability issues over the coming months,” Becquart said.

The blockage could cost global trade $6bn to $10bn a week, a study by German insurer Allianz showed on Friday.

More than $3bn of insurance is in place for liability claims against Shoei Kisen, the Japanese owner of the Ever Given.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Park some army tanks on either side
    Rum cables from the ship to the tanks
    Use the winches on the ship to free her

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