On March 23, 2021, when Evergreen cargo ship EverGiven passed through the Suez Canal, a sandstorm with wind speeds of more than 60 km / h swept through here and pushed the ship off the coast, causing Congestion of the arterial roads of world trade.
In fact, in Egypt, sandstorm weather is completely normal and in the past there was a case of crashing into the sandbank of the Suez Canal but was successfully rescued. In the case of the EverGiven vessel, due to its heavy weight and low tide, experts are struggling to find a rescue solution.
Returning to the story of March 23, cargo ships anchored in line to pass through the canal as usual. Likewise, one of the world’s largest cargo ships, the EverGiven.
Titanic on the Suez Canal
At 7:40 a.m. local time, this container-laden ship got stuck after a sandstorm. The large size of the ship, which is often compared to the Eiffel Tower, completely stalled the arterial route and affected global trade.
A reminder is that the Suez Canal accounts for 13% of the total world trade with about 19,000 cargo ships passing here in 2019.
At the time of the sandstorm, a ship 1 day before the trip of Ever Given decided to postpone due to too great winds, but the giant ship of Evergreen is still risky.
In addition, while the smaller freight train previously used a towing boat to fix the direction of the sandstorm, the EverGiven did not use it. The reason is not yet clear, but perhaps the subjective fact that the ship is large and heavy enough to not be affected by sandstorms contributed to this decision.
Surprisingly, when the ship started to deflect into the sand, the driver decided to speed up to try to correct course but it was too late. This is precisely the reason why the EverGiven is firmly attached to the sandy shore of the Suez Canal and makes the rescue difficult.
This story is reminiscent of the giant Titanic when the size of the ship made people think it could not sink. Then the ship crashed into the iceberg on its first transatlantic voyage, killing 1,500 people.
Returning to the Suez Canal, this is considered to be one of the very difficult waters for the crew to sail because of the narrow area.
“It’s a rather small canal and the wind is huge, so the consequences will be enormous if only one small mistake happens,” said former crew member and current marine safety consultant Andrew Kinsey of Allianz Global. Corporate stressed.
Many cargo ships were stuck at both ends of the Suez canal, waiting for customs clearance
Accident because too big
In fact, due to the occasional sandstorm weather, crossing the Suez Canal in high winds is common because so many cargo ships wait for their turn. This is a crowded arterial route, so many cargo ships have used two side zipper or support measures to cross the canal in the wind. In some cases, no assistance is even used to speed up the passage of the channel.
One day before the accident took place, the ship Rasheeda waiting for gas from Qatar decided to postpone passing through the canal despite lining up in front of EverGiven. Despite the delay in the delivery schedule, the captain of Rasheeda still made this decision after discussing with staff and experts.
The Suez Canal staff, meanwhile, said that sandstorms not only caused strong winds, but also impaired visibility, causing the boat driver to lose control and deviate. The rescue campaign is currently underway, but sources indicate that at least until next Wednesday, the EverGiven ship will not be able to exit the Suez Canal.
On average, the Suez Canal daily welcomes about 50 freight trains and each ship takes an average of 12 hours to pass through depending on weather conditions. The congestion of EverGiven will increase the number of ships trapped on both ends of the canal, thereby making normal cargo traffic return longer even after the canal has been cleared.
The number of waiting ships has increased from more than 180 on March 24 to more than 300 ships at both ends of the Suez Canal, thereby blocking the flow of nearly $ 10 billion per day.
Recorded data showed that EverGiven ran at 13.5 Knots at 7:28 am on March 23, just 12 minutes before the accident. This speed is faster than the ceiling of 7.6 Knots, equivalent to 13.8km / h that the Suez Canal allows cargo ships to operate here.
The boat captains when questioned said they could speed up during the sandstorm to better adjust their ride rather than slow. However, in this case it makes the accident worse.
Another equally large cargo ship, Maersk Denver, behind EverGiven, only dared to speed 10.6 Knots at 7:28 a.m. on March 23.
In front of the EverGiven is the smaller Cosco Galaxy. The ship also runs at the same speed as EverGiven, but has a tow line to support the direction of the sandstorm.
This assistance is not required when cargo ships pass sandstorms on the Suez Canal, but canals can provide them if requested by the captain.
According to the captains who once carried cargo across the Suez Canal, driving a ship as big and heavy as the EverGiven is difficult.
“You will see cases of one-sided turns but the train is on one side. The distance between keeping speed fast enough to glide in a sandstorm and too fast to cause an accident is slim. Any mistake will lead to extremely damaging consequences and quickly because the canal is quite small compared to the size of the ship “, former Captain Kinsey of Allianz said.
It’s increasingly difficult to save
About 20 minutes after the accident, a tugboat among the two supporting ships in front of the cargo boat returned to try to pull EverGiven off the shore, but failed. Then 8 support boats were also mobilized, but the tide was too low and the boat was plugged into the shore too sure to make things useless.
According to Kinsey, the delay in rescuing the ship will make it more difficult to clear the canal because the sediment flows around the bottom of the ship under water and making it more challenging to remove the ship from the sand bank.
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