The recovery of a huge container vessel that is blocking the Suez Canal could take "days or weeks", said the head of a Dutch salvage firm that has sent experts to help with the task.
A team from Smit Salvage was due to arrive on Thursday at the scene where the MV Ever Given ran aground in a sandstorm, said Peter Berdowski, CEO of its parent company Boskalis.
"It's really a heavy whale on the beach, so to speak," Berdowski told the Dutch TV news programme Nieuwsuur late Wednesday, when asked about the challenges of moving the vessel.
"I don't want to speculate, but it can take days or weeks."
Egypt has suspended navigation through one of the world's busiest shipping lanes due to the trapped ship, while the vessel's Japanese owners said they were facing "extreme difficulty" refloating it.
Berdowski said the team heading to the site would assess a number of factors when deciding how best to move the 400-metre (1,300-foot) Panama-flagged ship.
"We are looking at how much oil it contains, how much water -- these are complex calculations," he said.
Smit Salvage, which was bought by Boskalis in 2010, has worked on some of the most high-profile salvage operations in recent years, including the wrecks of Russian nuclear submarine Kursk and Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia.
The firm says it has "emergency response bases" in Rotterdam, Houston, Cape Town and Singapore, and deals salvaging ships, recovering wrecks, and also pumping out hazardous substances from grounded boats.