The 20,000 TEU-class container ship Ever Given remained stuck in the Suez Canal for almost one week, after grounding on Tuesday 23rd of March, leaving dozens of container ships and bulk carriers, unable to use the key trading route. In a bid to explain the reasons behind that unprecedented blockage, YouTube raged with videos in which individuals shared their perspectives on the incident.
n the following article, we include some of the most popular videos which can be found on YouTube. But let’s first remember the facts day by day:
March 23rd: According to the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), the ship was unable to keep a straight trajectory due to high winds and a sand storm that reduced visibility. At the time of the incident, stormy weather was buffeting Egypt, forcing the closure of several Mediterranean and Red Sea ports.
March 24th: The Suez Canal Authority allowed a convoy of ships to enter the canal from its northern end at Port Said, but the vessels dropped anchor in the Great Bitter Lake nearly 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of the container ship. Shipping companies were questioning whether they should decide to prefer divert their vessels to sail around the southern tip of Africa. However, this was not an easy decision, since it could be a very expensive option adding several days to the journey time.
March 25th: Appointed by the shipowner of EVER GIVEN, a team of experts from Smit Salvage arrived at the scene of the grounding accident and discussed solutions to rescue the ship with the Captain and Suez Canal Authority.
March 26th: After careful assessment of the situation, the plan was to continue the ongoing efforts to clear sand and mud around the ship’s bow and try to free the vessel at high tide. It was estimated that the excavation would take at least two to three days to reach the required depth for the stranded ship to refloat. Then the salvage experts would try further to get the vessel out of the predicament at the highest tide of the Suez Canal.
March 27th: More than 300 ships were delayed at both ends and in the middle of the canal, with many more still approaching or having altered their paths. Three main waiting areas had been shaped in the Suez Canal since the Ever Given incident, as vessels were waiting to resume their voyages through the Canal. The head of the Suez Canal Authority said that it remains unclear when the vessel will be refloated.
March 28th: The Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, ordered preparations for lightening the ship’s cargo. The Ever Given was blocking the southernmost stretch of the canal, which had a single lane, meaning no other ships could pass. Τhe dredging operation underway succeeded in loosening the EVER GIVEN’s bow within the bank of the Suez Canal and the ship’s stern was cleared from the sand bank. Also, fuel, ballast water, and several containers were removed from the ship to help lighten it as heavy machinery, including an excavator, worked to dig the bow out.
March 29th: Evergreen Line confirmed that EVER GIVEN had been successfully refloated within the Suez Canal at approximately 15:00 local time. In order for the Canal to resume normal operation, the vessel left the grounding site with assistance of tugboats.
Exploring the engineering principles behind the recent obstruction of the Suez Canal, the video below by Practical Engineering, a YouTube channel by Grady Hillhouse, provides a brief overview of the bank effect and dilatancy of coarse-grained soils. The video helps us understand a few of the engineering challenges associated with navigating massive ships through tiny canals and what can happen when they run aground.
Mr. Grady Hillhouse says that Suez Canal differs from the Panama Canal since there are no gates or locks. Minor differences between the Mediterranean and Red Sea create gentle currents in the Canal, but they are not strong to trouble the ship. What is more, the extension of Suez Canal in 2016, doubled its capacity. All ships passing the canal are required to have a Canal Authority Pilot to help navigate each step. These are not fully responsible for the safety during transit, but they have special knowledge about the processes, procedures and challenges required to navigate these massive vessels through the canal.
Concluding the video, Mr Hillhouse notes that ”a weeklong disruption in such a big portion of global shipping traffic doesn’t untangle itself so quickly” .
The whole industry now expects the results of a full investigation into the incident to be made public once complete, to ensure any vital lessons are learnt. The SCA investigation has already started to find out what caused the vessel to run aground in the Canal. According to the Canal Authority’s Chairman, Osama Rabie, the investigation is not going to last long, and the results will be announced soon.
In the following YouTube video, Seaman Chief MAKOi provides an analysis on the controversial track that the Ever Given made moments before is was grounded in the Suez Canal, questioning whether the ship’s navigation system was hacked intentionally.
Citing data from VesselFinder to show vessel’s route, Seaman Chief MAKOi proves that the incident was not intentional in order to clear up any conspiracy theories around the Ever Given grounding.
Similarly, Karanvir Singh Nayyar explained on his YouTube video that hacking a mega cargo ship is not possible during manouvering as all the control systems are in standby mode .
While Ever Given was still stuck in the Suez Canal, Senior Second Officer Alfie Smith published an explanatory video on his YouTube channel with animations of the grounding, discussing in detail what this means for the industry, sharing also his personal experience.
In the following video, Associate Professor of History Sal Mercogliano of Campbell University, former merchant mariner and professor of Maritime Industry Policy at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy discusses the latest issues arising from the Suez and MV Ever Given.
In this episode, Prof Mercogliano discusses the latest statement by the Suez Canal Authority clarifying that have only arrested Ever Given and not the crew; although they have only recently released the sole crewmember of a ship arrested in 2017.
On the occasion of the Suez Canal blockage and without pointing fingers, SAFETY4SEA conducted a webinar to focus on solutions, consequences and next day lessons to be learned for the industry.
‘’The fact that there were not any serious conditions with regards to the position of the vessel in the Canal and the weather contributed to a positive outcome’’ Mr. Elias Psyllos, Commercial and Risk Management, T&T Salvage argued in the following SAFETY4SEA Talk
Mr. George Margetis, Managing Director, Margetis Maritime Consulting expressed his concerns about the ‘gigantization of vessels’: ‘’Containers are getting bigger and bigger; the same is valid for the cruise industry. This casualty was not very serious in terms of damages. It is going to have economical impact but imagine a casualty happening on a cruise ship with 5,000 individuals onboard what would be the consequences.’’ he said.
Despite of the economical impact and trade disruption, looking at a different angle, Jim Allsworth, Claims Director, C Solutions Limited said that the Ever Given incident provided a huge opportunity so that everyone realize the vital role that seafarers play in our daily lives. ‘’We often, many of us in the industry complain that shipping doesn’t get the spotlight it deserves. So, we finally have the spotlight albeit after such an incident but it’s an opportunity to show the world and inform people of just how important role shipping plays; from the salvage companies to the big liners and seafarers.’’ added Mr. Georgios Hatzimanolis, Media Strategist, MarineTraffic.