Ships take Cape route to avoid Suez Canal blockage

Ships take Cape route to avoid Suez Canal blockage
A specialised suction dredger is now on site to clear sand around the ship's bow

Shipping lines have begun re-routing vessels around the African continent to bypass the Suez Canal, which remains blocked despite ongoing efforts to refloat the Ever Given.

Evergreen’s Ever Greet, which operates on the same China-Europe-Mediterranean service that the Ever Given was sailing on, was due to sail from Malaysia to the Suez Canal, but is instead heading south.

Operators are weighing up the pros and cons of using the alternative route around the African continent, which adds 9,000 km to journeys or up to ten days in sailing time as well as additional fuel costs.

German carrier Hapag-Lloyd has announced that six vessels it has containers on are being rerouted via the Cape of Good Hope.

These comprise the HMM Dublin, the HMM Stockholm, HMM Rotterdam, the ONE Munchen, the YM Wellhead and the ONE Marvel.

French shipping line CMA CGM has stated that for cargo yet to be loaded, it is considering alternative maritime routes, rail services or airfreight solutions.

Meanwhile, a team of experts from Smit Salvage have arrived at the canal to formulate a plan to refloat the grounded vessel with the Suez Canal Authority (SCA).

A statement from Evergreen noted: “The plan was to continue the ongoing efforts to clear sand and mud around the ship’s bow and try to free the vessel at high tide.

“It is estimated that the excavation will take at least two to three days to reach the required depth for the stranded ship to refloat. Then the salvage experts will try further to get the vessel out of the predicament at the highest tide of the Suez Canal.”

In particular, a specialised suction dredger, which can shift 2,000 cubic m of material every hour, arrived on site on March 25 to support the ongoing dredging operations.

Arrangements are also being made for high-capacity pumps to reduce the water levels in the forward void space of the vessel and the bow thruster room, noted Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), which is the technical manager of the Ever Given.

Another attempt to refloat the vessel on March 26 failed, while Smit Salvage has confirmed that there will be two additional tugboats arriving by March 28 to assist in the re-floating of the ship.

Evergreen has also dispelled rumours that there was a black out resulting in loss of power prior to the ship’s grounding, instead claiming that this did not happen.