The blockage by the “Ever Green” at the Suez Canal continues. The huge container ship remains stuck in the waterway, after an attempt to unwedge the vessel during high tide on Sunday failed. The continuing saga not only has the full attention of the shipping industry, it has also captivated the interest of the wider general public.
On Saturday morning, J. & J. Denholm Chairman and UK Chamber of Shipping President, John Denholm, was invited on LBC’s current affairs programme, hosted by journalist Matt Frei, to discuss the impasse and the wider consequences.
When asked about the tide at the Suez Canal, John Denholm explained, “The level [of the water] in the Suez Canal goes up and down but not by a huge amount. With the salvors digging around the bit where she is aground, along with tugs, the hope is that they can pull her off the sand. That is the best hope for a quick resolution to the problem. The lifting moment of a tide is quite important and getting that little bit of lift, up off the bottom, creates the opportunity. Let’s hope it works.”
John Denholm confirmed that no ships owned by J. & J. Denholm are currently stuck in the canal. However, Matt Frei pointed out the real danger of ships in the ensuing traffic jam piling up even more if the blockage is not resolved quickly. The alternative route for ships to take is round the Cape of Good Hope but, as John Denholm explained, it is not a straightforward decision.
“These ships are not just coming from the Far East to the UK, they are making various port calls along the way. They will have drop-off calls in the Mediterranean and so diverting a ship is a difficult decision. That said, the liner companies are the servants of world trade. They know they’ve got to get the goods through and they are already beginning to divert ships round the Cape of Good Hope. However, it will take at least ten additional days, probably more. It all depends where you divert it from. It is a significant time delay but it gets the goods to where they want to go.”
Matt Frei commented on “an extraordinary picture in the papers” a few days ago of a rather large digger, dwarfed by the “Ever Given”, digging at the sand in an attempt to re-float the ship. What is the science behind the digging and is it actually working?
John Denholm: “She is stuck at either end on the sand and what the salvors are trying to do is to dig and undermine the sand where she is stuck. It’s basic stuff. She’s a huge ship and there is a huge amount of sand to move but every time there is a slight rise in the water level, they’ll be seeing if they can move her and will keep digging. The alternative is to bring in equipment to start making her lighter. You’ll see how tall she is; I estimate they need a crane that is 200 feet high to lift the containers off, this is not a small piece of equipment.”
As the attempt to unwedge the “Ever Given” during high tide failed on Sunday, despite its size, bringing in this large piece of equipment may be the increasingly called-for option. The world continues to look on, bemused and intrigued.