Suez Canal: blockage could cost $10bn a week as ship re-float attempt fails

Container vessel faces a fifth day blocking the vital waterway

An attempt to refloat the stranded mega-vessel blocking the Suez Canal failed, the ship's technical manager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) said on Friday.

The Panama-flagged Ever Given ran aground in the narrow canal on Tuesday morning after being hit by strong winds, the charterer of the vessel, Evergreen Maritime, said.

Satellite photos distributed by the canal authority show Ever Given's bow touching the eastern wall, while its stern appears to be lodged against the western wall.

Two attempts to refloat the huge boat failed. BSM said the rescue team had confirmed that two additional tugs will arrive on March 28 to assist in refloating the Ever Given, as it approaches its fifth day blocking the vital waterway.

The canal was closed on Thursday to allow rescue teams to try to free the 400-metre, 200,000-tonne container ship.

Dutch company Smit Salvage and Japan’s Nippon Salvage have been hired to assist in the refloating.

The Ever Given is the heaviest vessel that Smit Salvage has faced in its nearly 180-year history.

Capt Nicolas Sloane, a maritime salvage expert who led the high-profile effort to salvage the cruise ship Costa Concordia in 2012, said extracting the Ever Given is "quite a challenge" and could take five days to a week.

The Suez Canal Authority did not comment on the work or give any indication of when traffic could resume.

Hundreds of ships are waiting to pass through the closed canal, with some choosing to take a much longer route around the continent of Africa.

6.3 million barrels of oil stranded 

Data company Refinitiv said a further 100 boats are on their way to the closed canal. Data intelligence company Kpler said 10 crude oil tankers were awaiting entry to the canal, carrying oil and oil products from Kazakhstan, Russia, Libya, Azerbaijan and the North Sea.

At least 6.3 million barrels of oil are stranded in the canal, Kpler said.

The effect of delays has doubled shipping costs for oil-related products since the ship ran aground on Tuesday, experts said.

The blockage could cost global trade $6 billion to $10 billion a week, a study by German insurer Allianz showed on Friday.

"The problem is that the Suez Canal blockage is the straw that breaks global trade's back," the study's authors wrote.

"First, suppliers' delivery times have lengthened since the start of the year and are now longer in Europe than during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic."

A further statement from Evergreen Marine said the costs of freeing the vessel and repair were the owner’s responsibility.

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