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However, time is not much of the ships that pass through the Suez Canal. The incident is holding back about 10% of world trade, a series of imports that are important to European supply chains and industry. Dozens of ships chose to detour through the southernmost tip of Africa. Therefore, the Suez Canal needs to clear it as soon as possible.
If sandblasting is ineffective, or too slow, one of the first things rescuers do is withdraw fuel and ballast water so that Ever Given floats higher.
This weekend’s campaign will begin unloading containers from Ever Given, said Peter Berdowski, chief executive of Boskalis Westminster, the parent company of the salvage group. “We are waiting for the crane to be delivered to remove the container from the ship. Regardless, we’ll start working this weekend. ”
The container ship Ever Given ran aground on the Suez Canal from March 23. Photo: Suez Canal Authority.
History shows that reducing the load can help rescue Ever Given.
In November 2004, the Suezmax tanker Tropic Brilliance ran aground on the Suez Canal due to a technical problem, traversing this sea route like Ever Given. The regulator must close the channel. The tugs also attempted to tow the Tropic Brilliance – carrying about 85,000 tons of fuel oil – but failed, exactly as it had been with Ever Given for the past three days.
Ultimately, the salvage specialists brought the tanker El Nabila up close and transferred some 22,000 tons of fuel oil from Tropic Brilliance. On the third day of stranding, Tropic Brilliance was lighter and freed by ships, breaking the deadlock over Suez.
However, offloading for Ever Given is a completely different matter. This ship is carrying thousands of containers. If the salvage specialists wanted to transfer the same stock rate as the Tropic Brilliance rescue operation, about 25%, they would need days.
Two options are offered: a large crane mounted on a barge or a heavy helicopter that can lift containers – each tank can hold up to 22 tons of cargo.
This is not an easy option to implement. Renting a heavy helicopter is very expensive and who pays the fee is also a problem. The selection of a crane is also not simple because there are very few cranes large enough to lift containers from such tall ships, not to mention that they are bulky and difficult to move.
“It will take a lot of time and energy,” said Joseph Farrel III, business development manager at Resolve Marine, which provides a salvage service, but declined to mention the Ever Given case specifically. “It can be dangerous because people need to get people to climb the containers, tying each one to lift them up.”
According to Farrel, the cost of hiring a heavy helicopter can be up to 20,000 USD / hour.
The lifting of the container can only be done by a line of special heavy helicopters capable of lifting about 12.5 tons, said Nick Sloane, a salvage expert involved in the rescue of the sinking Costa Concordia off Italy in 2012.
Finding the right helicopter is also a task, says Keith Saylor, commercial operations manager at the commercial transport helicopter service Columbia Helicopter, Aurora, Oregon.
Many helicopters, like the Chinooks in Saylor’s fleet, are military-owned – forces rarely involved in salvage missions. The US has offered to support Suez, but the extent of it is unclear.
Very few private helicopters are suitable and most are in the US, more than 11,000 kilometers from the scene, Saylor said. The cost of transporting the helicopter to the scene is estimated at 1.7 million USD. Finding the right pilot is not easy because there are less than 100 people in the world trained for this task.
Each container can be moved in as little as 5 minutes, estimates Saylor. In 12 hours, Ever Given will reduce the capacity of 144 containers while this “super ship” has a capacity of about 20,000 barrels.
The sand-only strategy was successful in 2016, when a similar container ship ran aground on the Elbe River, Germany. The salvage company SMIT – also involved in the rescue Ever Given – dug continuous sand around the stranded ship and successfully rescued in about 1 week.
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