The push to free the container ship stuck in the Suez Canal continued into a fifth day Saturday as more than 300 ships on either side wait to pass through the blockage.
Efforts to refloat the Ever Given made “significant progress” Friday night as the ship’s rudder was freed, according to Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the technical manager of the Ever Given. But low tides quashed authorities’ hopes of refloating the 1,300-foot vessel before the weekend.
For days, tugboats have been struggling to free the ship by towing and pushing the vessel since it ran aground Tuesday, closing off the main ocean route between Europe and Asia.
The Suez Canal Authority said in a statement Thursday that it had officially halted traffic while the refloating efforts continued, further stressing global supply chains already disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
While traffic remains closed, other vessels in the canal are weighing whether to continue to wait for the ship to be freed or to take a chance on costly alternate routes, like going around Africa.
Some experts estimate that the traffic jam — which is holding up cargo like food, oil and consumer goods — is costing close to $10 billion per day.
The high-stakes effort to refloat the Ever Given hinge on using tugboats to free the ship while dredging operations remove sand and mud from around the vessel’s bow.
On Saturday, 11 tugboats were at work in the refloating mission and were expected to continue until midnight local time, according to a spokesperson for BSM. The company said that two additional tugboats, registered in the Netherlands and Italy, were set to arrive by Monday.
A specialized suction dredger, which can shift 2,000 cubic meters of material per hour, also arrived Thursday to support the operations.
Meanwhile, the 25 crew members on board, all of them Indian nationals, were safe and accounted for Saturday and remained in “good health and spirits,” according to BSM.
“They are working closely with all parties involved to re-float the vessel,” a spokesperson from BSM said. “The hard work and tireless professionalism of the Master and crew is greatly appreciated.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a briefing Friday that the United States had offered assistance to Egyptian authorities to help reopen the canal.
“We are consulting with our Egyptian partners about how we can best support their efforts,” she said.
The U.S. Navy has also offered assistance, according to CNN.
The Suez Canal Authority expressed gratitude for offers of international aid in a statement Friday.
“The SCA values the offer of the United States of America to contribute to these efforts, and looks forward to cooperating with the U.S. in this regard in appreciation of this good initiative which confirms the friendly relations and cooperation between the two countries,” the statement said.