A massive container ship’s embarrassing and inconvenient predicament is visible from space.
Tiny Earth-observing Dove satellites operated by San Francisco-based company Planet have spied the giant cargo ship that’s blocking Egypt’s Suez Canal, as well as the traffic jam caused by the huge vessel’s plight. The Airbus-built Pleiades Earth-observing satellite also captured a stunning close-up of the stuck ship early Thursday morning (March 25).
The 1,300-foot-long (400 meters) ship, called Ever Given, ran aground while traversing the canal on Tuesday morning (March 23). It’s now lodged sideways across the Suez, preventing other ships from coming or going along this busy trade route that connects the Mediterranean and Red seas.
The Ever Given, the massive container ship that spent days stuck in the Suez Canal, was set free Monday, restoring traffic to the crucial waterway.
Boskalis, a Dutch company that worked with Egyptian authorities, announced in a statement that the 1,300-foot long vessel was freed from its position blocking the canal at 3:05 p.m. local time Monday.
According to the Associated Press, tugboats were able to pull the 220,000-ton ship from the bank of the canal where it had been stuck for nearly a week. The ship’s crew of 25 Indian nationals are in good health, according to Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the ship’s technical manager.
The tugs will now pull the ship to Great Bitter Lake — a wide body of water midway through the canal — where it will be inspected, the AP reported.
Suez Canal ship freed: How the moon helped and everything else you need to know
You’ll notice “Evergreen” is written across the Ever Given’s body, but confusingly, that’s branding for the Taiwanese company that operates the ship. After nearly six days lodged aground in the Suez Canal, the cargo ship Ever Given was finally freed Monday. Traffic in the waterway has now resumed.
The Suez Canal is one of the world’s most important waterways. Located 75 miles east of Cairo, the capital of Egypt, it links the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, allowing for direct shipping from Europe to Asia. Roughly 12% of the world’s shipping traffic and a chunk of its oil supply goes through the manmade canal, which has become particularly vital following pandemic-related disruptions to shipping.
That’s why it was a big deal that a 1,312-foot-long ship, the Ever Given, was blocking the Suez Canal for nearly a week. With the canal’s cargo traffic at a standstill, that meant delays in everything from oil to food to clothing to semiconductors.
The vessel’s refloating came after two additional tugboats were deployed Sunday, as reported by the Associated Press, to help a fleet of around 10 similar boats laboring to extract the 200,000-ton Ever Given. The Suez Canal Authority over the weekend also deployed more onland heavy machinery to dig around the ship’s bow, which would make it easier for the vessel to be pulled out.
The effort was aided by a worm moon, which caused a high tide that made floating the ship easier. “We were helped enormously by the strong falling tide we had this afternoon,” said Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, the company that lead the rescue effort, said to The Associated Press. “In effect, you have the forces of nature pushing hard with you, and they pushed harder than the two sea tugs could pull.”
Has this happened before? Yes.
Following mechanical issues, a Japanese vessel became lodged in the ground under the canal water in 2017. Tugboats refloated the ship within hours. A year prior, the CSCL Indian Ocean spent five days aground before being pulled out by tugboats.
At first, officials at the canal hoped to dislodge the Ever Given within a day or two. Instead, the Ever Given has the dubious honor of blocking the canal longer than any other cargo ship during peacetime in history.
The moon isn’t just for decoration. It took a little help from the full moon to free the massive Ever Given cargo ship from its perch stranded in the Suez Canal. For nearly a week, the boat debacle took the internet by storm: a 1,300-foot-long (400 meters) container ship had gotten wedged into a key trading passageway, blocking all traffic. A digger, dwarfed by the massive boat, came to scratch away at the canal’s sides, an allegory of every quixotic attempt we make to manage the behemoth crashes in our own lives.
Tugboat horns blared and salvage workers chanted Monday as one of the largest ships in the world was refloated and churned through the Suez Canal, opening a crucial global shipping lane that had been blocked for almost a week.
The Ever Given had been stuck diagonally across the canal since Tuesday, clogging a vital artery for the global economy and prompting some ships to turn around and reroute around Africa’s southern tip.
Image courtesy Airbus, Julianne Cona/Instagram