After running aground nearly a week ago and being wedged sideways in the waterway, a huge 1,300-foot cargo ship remains trapped in the Suez Channel, blocking all traffic through the critical shipping lane and creating significant traffic jams in the Mediterranean and Red Seas.
Significant trade delays were quickly apparent, and they would only get worse as the ship remained stranded.
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Experts and officials are considering a variety of options for refloating the skyscraper-length vessel, but its bow section remained wedged in sand and rock as of Sunday afternoon.
Here are five things to remember about the stranded ship and the global problems it’s causing:
1. Last Tuesday, the ship ran aground, with high winds and human error being blamed as potential causes.
The Panamanian-flagged vessel, nicknamed “Evergreen,” is a 1,300-foot cargo ship, one of the world’s largest. It is run by a Taiwanese firm and is owned by a Japanese firm. According to officials, the 25-member crew is Indian and remains onboard in “good spirits” and unharmed.
The cause of the ship running aground is still under investigation, but Evergreen Marine, the Taiwanese company that constructed and operates it, said in a statement that the ship was “suspected of being struck by a sudden strong wind, causing the hull to deviate… and unintentionally hit the bottom and run aground.”
At a press conference on Saturday, the head of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), Osama Rabie, poured cold water on Evergreen Marine’s explanation, increasing the likelihood of human error as a cause.
“Strong winds and weather conditions were not the primary causes of the ship’s grounding; technical or human errors may have played a role,” he said.
2. Although some progress has been made, no timetable for refloating the “Evergreen” has been set.
The ship’s rudder control has been restored, according to SCA officials, and staff have dredged about 16 meters on the canal’s eastern side, according to The New York Times. The ship can only be refloated during high tide, and experts are hoping that a higher-than-usual tide on Monday would help.
“I just have no idea when we’ll be finished. Perhaps today, if God wills. Perhaps tomorrow. It all depends on the situation and how the ship reacts “On Sunday, Rabie said.
“When dealing with a ship of this scale, we don’t know how it will react to the dredgers because we don’t know how it will react to the dragging.”
3. If the delays continue beyond Monday, the shipping industry will be seriously impacted.
More than 320 ships are currently awaiting the removal of the “Evergreen” on either side of the Suez Canal. According to a Lloyd’s List study first published by CNBC on Thursday, the pileup was delaying $400 million in global trade every hour, while The Washington Post reported that several companies operating vessels unable to move through the channel could face higher costs than they can afford due to delayed goods, increased repairs, and other factors.
“It’s a critical route for ships passing through the Mediterranean on their way to the Gulf and beyond.” If the canal is closed to these ships, passage time could increase by three weeks if they could circumnavigate Africa through the Gulf, according to Paul Sullivan, an expert on international security and economics at the National Defense University, who spoke to The Hill on Sunday.
4. The Pentagon has admitted that the shutdown would have an effect on US security, but it has not stated how.
“We are not going to talk about particular organizational effects,” a Navy spokesperson told The Hill on Sunday.
The Navy has “alternative capabilities to mitigate damage” caused by the traffic stoppage, according to the spokesperson, but no further specifics were given. Because of the canal’s convenience when it is in good working order, most alternative travel through the region by US naval forces will likely be more expensive. The rerouting of other cargo ships and the concentration of ships in the region could pose their own security concerns, prompting the Navy to respond.
“The longer the canal is closed, the more container ships, oil tankers, and other ships can take the route all the way around Africa, or at least along the east coast, before turning westward. This might provide more resources for pirates and those with nefarious motives. Many coast guards and navies’ capabilities could be further strained as a result of this “According to Sullivan, who spoke to The Hill.
“There are critical seagoing choke points with narrow channels on which the world’s trade and national economies depend heavily. The economic impact of closing any of these could cause security concerns in a variety of locations on its own”.
5. The United States has offered to help in the ship’s rescue operations, although it is not yet officially involved.
President Biden told reporters on Friday that the United States is providing assistance but is not directly involved in the ship’s recovery. According to the Post, the Egyptian-led initiative has so far obtained support from the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy.
“We have facilities and capacity that the majority of countries lack. From his home state of Delaware, Biden said, “We’re seeing what help we can be.”
At a press conference, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration had “offered U.S. assistance to Egyptian authorities to help reopen the canal” and was in talks with them “about how we can better support those efforts.”
In a tweet, Pentagon spokesperson Commander Jessica L. McNulty said, “We have offered and stand ready to assist Egypt, and will look to help any particular request we get.” “We are continuing to track and evaluate the situation, but we have no clear assistance to provide at this time.”
Two US defense officials told CNN in a Friday report that the Navy was sending a team of dredging experts to the region, which could arrive as early as Saturday, but there has been no official confirmation of that team’s involvement.