Stuck ship Ever Given refloated as Suez Canal block end in sight

The Ever Given container ship which has been blocking the Suez Canal and costing multi-billion dollar delays to international trade has been refloated, officials say, beginning the long process of resuming shipping. It's been a week since the more than 1,300 foot long vessel managed to lodge itself across the canal, spawning a logistics crisis and a flurry of memes.

Ever Given has been in operation since 2018, and until now was just another Golden-class container ship capable of transporting more than 20,000 standard-size shipping containers at a time. That all changed on March 23, when the ship ran aground diagonally across the canal.

The incident has initially been blamed on a sudden strong wind, which nudged the hull of the ship to the side and led it to strike the bottom of the canal. Efforts began to remove sand from the area around the bow of the ship, but it was slow-going, particularly given the conditions on the banks weren't conducive to bringing in large numbers of excavators and other equipment. A full investigation into the cause of the grounding will look at whether human error, technical problems, or other causes contributed to it.

The more immediate problem, however, was the backlog of vessels on both sides. As one of the busiest trade routes in the world, the Suez Canal is normally the path of choice for ships wanting the quickest way between Europe and the lands lying around the Indian and western Pacific oceans. Income from the tolls paid by those vessels are a significant contributor to Egyptian government finance.

Hundreds of ships were trapped on either side of the Ever Given, containing everything from goods to fuel and more. The delays – which had been estimated at costing hundreds of millions of dollars per hour to global trade – have led to warnings about shortages in the coming weeks and even months. While alternative routes along the Cape of Good Hope around Africa exist, they add more than a week of transit time to the journey, and a considerable increase in fuel consumption.

Today, the Suez Canal Authority announced, Ever Given has been successfully refloated. "This was the result of successful push and tow maneuvers which led to the restoration of 80% of the vessel's direction," the Authority said in a statement, "with the stern 102 m. away from the bank of the Canal now instead of 4 m. prior to the refloating."

Come high-tide, meanwhile, the aim is to continue shifting the vessel in the canal, so that it is aligned with the waterway. That should see it positioned in the center, allowing other ships to resume service in either direction around it. Tugs had been used to pull first the stern of the ship out of the banks, and then its bow.

Image: Copernicus Sentinel/Pierre Markuse (CC BY 2.0)