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Japanese owner faces 'extreme difficulty' refloating ship stuck in Suez Canal

  • News Desk

    Agence France-Presse

Tokyo, Japan   /   Thu, March 25, 2021   /   04:55 pm
Japanese owner faces 'extreme difficulty' refloating ship stuck in Suez Canal A handout picture released by the Suez Canal Authority on March 24, 2021 shows a part of the Taiwan-owned MV Ever Given (Evergreen), a 400-metre- (1,300-foot-)long and 59-metre wide vessel, lodged sideways and impeding all traffic across the waterway of Egypt's Suez Canal. (AFP/Suez Canal)

Japanese ship-leasing firm Shoei Kisen Kaisha said Thursday it owned the giant container vessel stuck in the Suez Canal and was facing "extreme difficulty" trying to refloat it.

"In co-operation with local authorities and Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, a vessel management company, we are trying to refloat (the ship), but we are facing extreme difficulty," Shoei Kisen Kaisha said in a statement on its website.

"We sincerely apologise for causing a great deal of worry to ships in the Suez Canal and those planning to go through the canal," it said, adding that no crew injuries or oil leaks had been detected on the MV Ever Given.

Menawhile, Egyptian tug boats worked Thursday to free the giant container vessel that has threatens to disrupt one of the world's busiest maritime trade routes for days. 

The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said it was trying to refloat the Taiwan-run, Panama-flagged MV Ever Given, a 400-metre (1,300-foot) long vessel which veered off course and ran aground in a sandstorm on Tuesday.

Satellite pictures released by Planet Labs Inc show the 59-metre wide container ship wedged diagonally across the entire canal.

A satellite handout image released by Planet Labs Inc on March 24, 2021, shows the Taiwan-owned MV 'Ever Given' (Evergreen) container ship, a 400-metre- (1,300-foot-)long and 59-metre wide vessel, lodged sideways and impeding all traffic across the waterway of Egypt's Suez Canal. A giant container ship ran aground in the Suez Canal after a gust of wind blew it off course, the vessel's operator said on March 24, 2021, bringing marine traffic to a halt along one of the world's busiest trade routes.A satellite handout image released by Planet Labs Inc on March 24, 2021, shows the Taiwan-owned MV 'Ever Given' (Evergreen) container ship, a 400-metre- (1,300-foot-)long and 59-metre wide vessel, lodged sideways and impeding all traffic across the waterway of Egypt's Suez Canal. A giant container ship ran aground in the Suez Canal after a gust of wind blew it off course, the vessel's operator said on March 24, 2021, bringing marine traffic to a halt along one of the world's busiest trade routes. (AFP/Planet Labs)

"We've never seen anything like it before," said Ranjith Raja, Middle East oil and shipping researcher at international financial data firm Refinitiv.

"It is likely that the congestion... will take several days or weeks to sort out as it will have a knock-on effect on other convoys."

The blockage has already hit world oil markets. Crude futures surged six percent on Wednesday as traders assessed the likely impact on deliveries.

Broker Braemar warned that if tug boats are unable to move the giant vessel, some of its cargo might have to be removed by crane barge to refloat it. 

"This can take days, maybe weeks," it said.

The vessel's managers, Singapore-based Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), said its 25 crew were unhurt and the hull and cargo undamaged.

A MarineTraffic map showed large clusters of vessels circling as they waited in both the Mediterranean to the north and the Red Sea to the south.

Historic sections of the canal were reopened in a bid to ease the bottleneck, with dozens of ships waiting at both ends of the waterway.

The waterway drastically shortens travel between Asia and Europe because it prevents vessels from having to navigate around southern Africa's Cape of Good Hope. 

The Singapore-to-Rotterdam route, for example, is 6,000 kilometres (3,700 miles) and up to two weeks shorter than going around Africa. 

It is an "absolutely critical" route because "all traffic arriving from Asia goes through the Suez Canal," said Camille Egloff, a maritime transport specialist at Boston Consulting Group. 

Nearly 19,000 ships passed through the canal last year carrying more than one billion tonnes of cargo, according to the SCA.

Egypt earned $5.61 billion in revenues from the canal in 2020.