The existence of maritime chokepoints, especially in the Suez, Panama Canal, the Strait of Hormuz, and Southeast Asia’s Malacca Strait pose serious threats to the continuation of the world’s supply chain.

As the backlog of ships is expected to enter a third consecutive day on the world’s most important waterway, an elite salvage team is undertaking the remarkable challenge of freeing the massive container vessel that’s blocking traffic in the canal.

On Thursday, work to re-float the EVER GIVEN has been rigorously restarted, with tugs and diggers having so far failed to budge the vessel. Traffic along the waterway was temporarily suspended on Thursday as well. Industry experts commented that the drama could well unfold until Monday.

SMIT Salvage BV, a legendary Dutch firm specializing in salvage operations has undertaken the especially hard task of salvaging the grounded container ship. Employees of SMIT Salvage BV can be seen parachuting themselves from one ship wreckage to the next in an effort to save ships, seldom during violent storms.

According to people familiar with the matter, Japan’s Nippon Salvage has also been employed to boost the re-floating process.

Rockford Weitz, director of the Fletcher Maritime Studies Program at Tufts University said, “Dislodging a grounded ultra-large container ship in the Suez Canal will be challenging due to the confined nature of the canal’s shipping channel. This presents additional complications in comparison to a grounding on a reef or shoal.”

With its twisted starboard, the ship may be connecting continents, but it has halted a trade worth $9.6 billion every day, as per estimates from Llyod’s List, which used a back-of-the-envelope calculation to come to the number. The industry journal concedes that these are “rough calculations,” however.

The Suez Canal Authority has repeatedly refused to comment on the work or given any indication as to when ships could resume traffic in the vital canal.

Nick Sloane, the salvage master responsible for refloating the Costa Concordia, the cruise ship that capsized on the coast of Italy in 2012 said that it’s safe to say that the best chance for freeing the ship may not come until Sunday or Monday when the tide will reach a peak.

Greg Knowler, the European editor at JOC Group, which is part of IHS Markit Ltd, said, “The Suez Canal blockage comes at a particularly unhelpful time. Even a two-day delay would further add to the supply chain disruption slowing the delivery of cargo to businesses across the U.K. and Europe.”

Today 280 vessels, mostly bulk carriers, container ships, and oil or chemical tankers, are waiting to cross the canal.

Posted in Accidents by Ankur Kundu on Mar 25, 2021 at 13:12.