Update: Ever Given fully afloat and sailing

Update: Ever Given fully afloat and sailing
The ship's stern is now 102 m from the shore

As of 15.00 local time on Monday, the Ever Given is fully afloat and sailing towards Great Bitter Lake section of the Suez Canal where it will undergo a full inspection.

The outcome of that inspection will determine whether the ship can resume its scheduled service and decisions will be made regarding arrangements for cargo currently on board.

In a customer notice, German shipping line Hapag-Lloyd said that it expects canal transits to start later this evening, adding that the current backlog should be cleared within four days.

Earlier on Monday morning, Lieutenant general Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) confirmed that the Ever Given container ship was floating, potentially paving the way for the resumption of traffic through the Suez Canal.

Tension and towing manoeuvres significantly modified the vessel’s course by 80%, moving the ship’s stern away from the shore by 102 m instead of 4 m.

Further manoeuvres were scheduled for 11.30am local time when the water level rises to its maximum height of 2 m, allowing the ship’s course to be completely modified to the midway according to the SCA.

Rabie also reassured the global maritime community that navigation in the canal will resume once the vessel is fully floated and directed to wait in the Lakes region of the canal for its technical examination.

However, Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, whose subsidiary Smit Salvage is coordinating the refloating efforts, had struck a more cautious tone, stating that “we should not cheer too soon”.

Speaking to Dutch public radio NOS Radio 1 Journaal on Monday morning, he compared the remaining operation to free the ship’s bow to “a huge whale lying on the beach that you have to slide off”.

If efforts to loosen the bow from the surrounding clay layer had failed, Berdowski noted that containers would need to be removed from the ship in a very complicated operation.

Maersk’s latest customer advisory notice pointed out that it was “too early to say when the Suez Canal will be cleared for operations again”.

The carrier has also estimated that even despite multiple vessels being rerouted to take the Cape of Good Hope route, it could take six days or more for the complete queuing backlog to pass, conditional to safety and other operational circumstances.

The latest vessel refloating attempt was delayed from the afternoon of Sunday March 28 to the early hours of Monday morning to allow more tugboats to join the effort.

The ALP Guard, a specialist tug registered in the Netherlands, arrived on the scene on Sunday to assist in the refloating operations, joining the 11 tugboats already on site.

More than 20,000 tonnes of sand and mud had been removed over the past few days by dredging, loosening the vessel’s bow within the canal’s bank and clearing its stern from the sand bank.

As of Sunday March 28, the vessel’s rudder and propeller were fully functional and were expected to provide additional support to tugboats assigned to move the container ship from the accident site so that normal transit may again resume within the canal, noted an Evergreen statement.

Soil experts have reached the site alongside officials from the SCA to advise on continuing recovery efforts.

An additional dredger, the THSD Causeway registered in Cyprus, is en-route to the scene to provide additional dredging capacity and is scheduled to arrive by March 30.