It is still not clear how long it will take to refloat the container ship that is blocking the Suez Canal. This was said by a spokesperson of Boskalis, which is helping to resolve the blockage through its subsidiary Smit Salvage. However, a plan of action to pull the 400-metre Ever Given free is beginning to take shape.
Earlier this week, the Ever Given ran aground diagonally in the Egyptian canal, possibly due to strong winds. The sides of the canal are less deep than the middle, so the front and back of the ship became stuck.
Boskalis subsidiary Smit Salvage is aiming for a double approach. The soil under the bow of the ship needs to be dug away where possible. At the same time fuel, needs to be pumped out of the vessel to make it lighter. A technical inspection of the Ever Given has already taken place today (25 March).
Uncertainties concerning dredgers and soil
A Boskalis spokesman explains that there are still a number of uncertainties. For example, it still remains to be seen how far dredgers can reach underneath the stranded ship to remove soil. The type of soil under the Ever Given is also still a big question mark.
‘Sand washes away quickly, which would be beneficial. You can compare it to digging a hole on the beach. If a wave passes over it, it is washed away quickly. But with clay-like soil, you can dig all you want, but the soil next to it will remain standing,’ says the spokesperson. ‘But the soil is rarely a homogeneous layer. You can’t say: this whole stretch of canal has this type of soil.’
More powerful tugs
It also remains to be seen where and when the Smit Salvage team can find vessels for the job. The company is looking for a suitable vessel for pumping out fuel, among other things, and it remains to be seen where the fuel can be stored for the time needed. It would also be better to have tugs with more power than the ones that are now moored on the south side of the Ever Given in order to straighten out the container ship.
Also read: Huge container ship blocks Suez Canal
Picture by the Suez Canal Authority.