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Will the US Navy send aid to the Suez Canal?

The 400m Ever Given became stuck in the Suez Canal on Tuesday, disrupting shipping worldwide and placing extra pressure on covid-19 supply routes.

Will the US Navy send aid to the Suez Canal?
MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY REUTERS

Optimism over the ability of rescue crews to free the Ever Given from the Suez Canal waned on Friday as attempts to dislodge the 400-meter, 220,000-tonne vessel from the 120-mile channel connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean failed to bear fruit. The Suez Canal, through which some 15 percent of the world’s total shipping passes, has been blocked since the Ever Given ran aground on Tuesday, disrupting global supply chains and placing extra pressure on importers and exporters already struggling to meet increased demand due to the global coronavirus pandemic. The United States Navy is planning to send an assessment team to the canal on Saturday to help efforts to shift the colossal vessel.

Psaki: White House “tracking the situation closely”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Egyptian government had accepted the offer of US assistance and that the Biden administration is “tracking the situation closely.”

Psaki added the White House has forecast “some potential impact” on energy markets as a result of the blockage.

The Ever Given,which was bound for the Netherlands from Malaysia, became wedged diagonally across a southern section of the canal amid high winds and a sand storm early on Tuesday. Efforts to refloat the giant container ship were suspended late on Friday and will be resumed Saturday, three canal sources said.

The latest attempt to dislodge the tanker, A Golden-class vessel and among the largest container ships in the world, started earlier on Friday after dredging operations to remove 20,000 cubic meters of sand at the tanker's bow. To give an idea of its size, if stood upright from bow to stern the Ever Given would fall just 40m shy of the tip of the Empire State Building.

The Ever Given could be freed by the start of next week if heavier tugboats, dredging and a high tide succeed in dislodging it, a Dutch firm working to free the vessel said. However, Smit Salvage also warned that it could be weeks before the Ever Given is freed from its aquatic shackles.

"Everything will have to work out exactly right"

This satellite image released by Maxar Technologies shows tug boats and dredgers attempting to free the MV Ever Given on March 26, 2021, in the Suez Canal.

"We aim to get it done after the weekend, but everything will have to work out exactly right for that," Peter Berdowski, chief executive of Boskalis, told Dutch TV program Nieuwsuur late on Friday.

"The bow is really stuck in the sandy clay, but the stern has not been pushed totally into the clay, which is positive. We can try to use that as leverage to pull it loose," Berdowski said.

"Heavy tugboats, with a combined capacity of 400 tonnes, will arrive this weekend. We hope that a combination of the tugboats, dredging of sand at the bow and a high tide will enable us to get the ship loose at the beginning of next week."

Covid-19 supply routes disrupted

Shipping rates for oil product tankers nearly doubled after the ship became stranded, and the blockage has scrambled global supply chains, threatening costly delays for companies already dealing with covid-19 restrictions.

If it drags on, shippers may decide to reroute around the Cape of Good Hope, adding about two weeks to journeys and extra fuel costs.

IKEA, the world's largest furniture seller, and London-based electronics seller Dixons Carphone are among the retailers with goods on the stranded vessel, both companies told Reuters.

Smit Salvage has warned it could take several weeks to dislodge the massive Ever Given. The resulting surge in imports due to the pandemic to Europe and the United States stranded empty containers, drove up cargo rates and caused seaport bottlenecks that are rippling throughout the transportation sector – and threatening to get worse.

"Ships, containers and goods are all in the wrong places," said Douglas Kent, an executive vice at the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM).

Lloyd's List estimates that roughly $9.6 billion in containerized goods pass through the Suez Canal each day. Thousands of empty containers are also returned to Asian factories via the canal, experts said.