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Suez Canal: US Navy to send expert team to assist with stuck Ever Given as latest refloating attempt fails

The US Navy is planning to send a team of dredging experts to the Suez Canal as soon as Saturday to help dislodge the colossal Ever Given container ship that has been blocking the canal since Tuesday.

It comes as US president Joe Biden’s administration said it was monitoring the situation closely and looking into how it can help resolve the situation.

The 400m-long ship became stuck when it ran aground in the Suez Canal after being blown sideways by 40-knot winds and a dust storm.

According to CNN, two officials from the Department of Defence said US Navy in the Middle East will send the assessment team to advise local authorities. The Egyptian administration agreed to accept the offer of help, which was passed though the US Embassy in Cairo.

The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) also welcomed the offer of help, saying in a statement on Friday that it “values the offer of the United States of America to contribute” to efforts to dislodge the Ever Given.

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The SCA added that it “looks forward to cooperating with the US in this regard in appreciation of this good initiative which confirms the friendly relations and cooperation between the two countries”.

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A US official told CNN that the Biden administration was “tracking the situation closely”.

“As part of our active dialogue with Egypt, we have offered US assistance to Egyptian authorities to help re-open the canal. We are consulting with our Egyptian partners about how we can best support their efforts” they said.

The latest attempt to re-float the Ever Given failed on Friday, said the ship’s technical manager, as extra tug boats were drafted in and water pumped out of the ship.

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement said in a statement: “The focus is now on dredging to remove sand and mud from around the port side of the vessel’s bow.

“A specialised suction dredger, which can shift 2,000 cubic metres of material every hour, arrived on site on 25 March.

“Arrangements are also being made for high-capacity pumps to reduce the water levels in the forward void space of the vessel and the bow thruster room.

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“Another attempt to re-float the vessel earlier today, 26 March, was not successful. Smit Salvage’s team on board confirm there will be two additional tugs … arriving by 28 March.”

As the blockage in the Suez Canal enters its fifth day, the White House said it has seen “some potential impacts on energy markets” due to the disruption.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that discussions with Egyptian officials are “ongoing”.

Lieutenant general Osama Rabei, head of the SCA, said in a statement on Friday night that dredgers have stopped removing sand around the bow of the vessel and tugboats were preparing for another towing attempt. He did not say if they have been able to budge the 200,000-tonne vessel.

Over 200 vessels are waiting in a marine traffic jam near the canal, with more than 100 ships en route to the waterway, according to data firm Refinitiv. Other ships, including a sister ship to the Ever Given known as the Ever Greet, have been diverted to take a route via the Cape of Good Hope to bypass the blockage,

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About 10 per cent of the world trade flows through the Suez Canal. Its closure could affect oil and gas shipment, as well as shipments of livestock and other products, to Europe from the Middle East and Asia.

According to shipping news journal Lloyd’s List, the blockage is costing $400m per hour in delayed goods. Experts have said it could take weeks to dislodge the ship and clear the backlog built up as a result.

The Japanese owner of the Ever Given, Shoei Kisen, said it hoped the vessel would be freed by Saturday night Japan time. The company’s president has apologised for the disruption caused by the ship’s grounding and hoped that an expected high tide will help to dislodge the ship.

Additional reporting by agencies