On March 23, the Ever Given, a 1,312-foot-long cargo ship weighing 200,000 metric tons veered off course and jammed sideways in the narrow Suez Canal. Now, after days of dredging mud around the vessel, peak high tides finally allowed a fleet of tugboats to pull the ship loose, reports Isabel Debre and Samy Magdy for the Associated Press.
For nearly a week, salvage teams worked on freeing the beached vessel using a schedule dictated by when low tides and high tides would hit, reports Vivian Yee and Marc Santora for the New York Times. On Sunday, a full moon gave the crews a 24-hour window where a few inches of extra high tidal flow provided more water for the team to work with.
From Sunday night into Monday morning, tugboats and dredgers worked to get the vessel afloat. By early Monday, the ship was partially refloated as the ship's stern was completely free, but as tides rose and fell, it was unclear if the bow that wedged itself into the canal's side was free, the New York Times reports. The distended bulbous bow that sits at the front of the ship just below the waterline is designed to reduce drag, increase buoyancy and increase speed, range, and fuel efficiency. By 3 p.m. Eastern European Time, horns sounded in celebration as tugboats were able to heave the Ever Given back into the water, reports the New York Times.
"We pulled it off! I am excited to announce that our team of experts, working in close collaboration with the Suez Canal Authority, successfully refloated the Ever Given. Thereby making free passage through the Suez Canal possible again," said Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, the salvage firm hired to free the Ever Given, to the Associated Press.
The blockage caused a trade nightmare in one of the world's busiest shipping routes. The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas and supports 12 percent of the global seaborne trade, reports CNBC's Michael Sheets and Pippa Stevens. Ships that use the canal carry all sorts of important cargo, including crude oil, electronics, and livestock.
Experts feared the Ever Given would cost global trade billions of dollars, as 360 ships waited to get through at the canal's Northern and Southern entrances, reports George Petras, Stephen J. Beard, Ramon Padilla, and Shawn J. Sullivan for USA Today.
The Suez Canal is the fastest path to ship goods all around the world. To make a global loop, the next fastest route is around Africa, but the trip costs $26,000 a day in fuel and treacherous waters add weeks to the route, reports the New York Times. Some ships were directed to take this route as it was unclear when the Suez Canal would be accessible again.
It is currently unknown how the ship became wedged in the canal. While the cause remains under investigation, the ship's owners attribute the event to high winds from a sandstorm. The chairman of Egypt's Suez Canal suggests otherwise, however, stating "technical or human reasons" may have caused the ship to lose course, USA Today reports.
After the Ever Given was freed, tugboats guided the ship toward Great Bitter Lake where it will be inspected for damage, reports the Associated Press.