PICTURES from space show dozens of ships STILL piling up behind a megaship the size of the Empire State Building which has blocked the Suez Canal for four days.
On Tuesday morning, the stricken 200,000-tonne Ever Given ship became wedged across the shipping lane amid high winds and a ferocious dust storm and continues to idle at the canal’s entrance.
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The 400m-long vessel – which is longer than the Eiffel Tower – can be seen in satellite images taken from outer space as tug boats and diggers work in an attempt to free it.
The blockage has caused a pile-up of 150 ships attempting to enter the narrow channel, which divides Africa from the Sinai Peninsula in Northern Egypt, the MaritimeTraffic website shows.
The crisis has now entered its fourth day as satellite images show the huge ship continuing to block a host of vessels from entering the lane.
Roughly 30 per cent of the world’s shipping container volume transits through the 120 mile Suez Canal every day.
Large volumes of oil from the Middle East are also carried through the waterway and it has been estimated the ships queueing to get through the canal have 8.8 million barrels on board.
Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority said it was trying to refloat the 1300ft long 194ft-wide Taiwanese ship – with the help tug boats.
The authority said a gale-force sandstorm blotted out light and limited the captain’s ability to see.
Five tug boats are currently working to try and drag the ship free.
Peter Berdowski, CEO of Dutch company Boskalis, which is trying to free the ship, said it was too early to say how long the job might take.
The ship’s bow and stern had been lifted up against either side of the canal, he explained.
Families of crew ‘kept in the dark’
A FAMILY of a crew member stuck on board the grounded Ever Given in the Suez Canal have revealed they are totally in the dark about their loved one’s welfare.
A total of 25 crew members are on the massive cargo vessel stranded but relatives overseas say they have not been contacted by authorities or the firm which operates the ship.
“I am hearing about this for the first time, we haven’t heard anything about it,” said the sister-in-law of the Ever Given’s Third Officer Ajitesh Adhikari, who has been travelling with the ship through Taiwan, China and Malaysia since it embarked Kaohsiung on February 23.
“I am quite surprised to hear about what has happened, as I haven’t heard about the ship stuck in the Suez Canal from the shipping company or from any family, but it is difficult to be in touch when they are away at sea.”
“I guess the company just hasn’t told anyone here in India, which is worrying,” said relative Anjali, speaking to The Sun Online from her home in India.
“It is good that everyone on board is fine and I am very happy to hear all the crew is ok but this is the first I have heard of it.”
“We can’t exclude it might take weeks, depending on the situation,” Berdowski told Dutch TV.
“It is like an enormous beached whale. It’s an enormous weight on the sand.
“We might have to work with a combination of reducing the weight by removing containers, oil and water from the ship, tug boats and dredging of sand.”
With millions of barrels are already stuck in boats waiting to enter the canal sparking the rise in global oil prices.
Further impact on the oil and gas markets will depend on how long it takes to move the vessel, reports say.
GAC, a Dubai-based marine services firm, said the information it had received earlier claiming the vessel was partially refloated was inaccurate.
Pictures show a digger removing earth from the bank of the canal around the boat’s bow while satellite images show its diagonal position across the shipping lane.
Marine officials said they hoped traffic along the canal could resume but the giant vessel would have to be towed to another position.
Experts believe the congestion in the channel will cause disruptions even when Ever Given is freed.
Peter Sand, the chief shipping analyst with Bimco, said: “When the blockage is cleared, ships will race to make up for the lost time and that could be an issue for the arrival ports.”
Ranjith Raja, of data firm Refinitiv, said: “We’ve never seen anything like this before but it’s likely that resulting congestion will take several days to weeks to clear.
“It is expected to have a ripple effect on the other convoys, schedules and global markets.”
Expert Sal Mercogliano said the effect on world trade, including vaccine supply, could be “catastrophic”.
He told the BBC’s Today programme: “Because of Covid, you know how badly things have slowed down with moving goods, and now all of a sudden you add this and you’re going to have a delay getting goods to markets.
“We’re talking about vaccines, manufacturing goods, food, everything. It’s potential catastrophic delays.
“Ten per cent of the world’s trade goes through the Suez Canal and you average about 50 vessels a day and we’re in the second day of not being able to move any vessels.
“Shipping companies are going to have to make a decision fairly soon whether or not to route the vessels around Africa, which adds and additional 12-14 days.”
What is the Suez Canal?
The Suez Canal is the quickest sea route between Asia and Europe and is one of the world’s most heavily used shipping lanes.
On average 50 vessels per day pass along the canal, although at times the number can be much higher.
The canal is 120 miles long, 672ft wide and 78ft deep meaning it can handle the world’s biggest ships, which take around 11 hours to pass through.
Ships have been grounded in the canal before and in 2017 a Japanese ship became stuck but was re-floated within hours.
The first canal was dug under the reign of Senausret III, Pharaoh of Egypt, who reigned from 1887-1849BC.
A new artificial waterway was planned by French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps, which took 10 years to complete and opened in November 1869.Egypt nationalised the canal in 1956, prompting an invasion by shareholders Britain and France along with Israel.
The Suez Crisis ended only after Egypt sank 40 ships in the canal and the United States, Soviet Union and United Nations intervened, forcing Britain, France and Israel to withdraw.
The state-owned Suez Canal Authority was established in July 1956 and runs the waterway.
In 2015 Egypt extended the Suez Canal providing ships with a 22 mile channel parallel channel, allowing more vessels to use it
Dr Mercogliano, an ex-merchant mariner and professor of history, said the situation of a ship blocking the entire canal has never been faced before.
He said: “There have been groundings on the Suez Canal before but never one of a ship this size or so dramatic – literally shutting the whole canal down by crossing the entire width of the canal.”
The ship was on its way from mainland China to Rotterdam in the Netherlands when it became stuck.
Ever Given’s bow was touching the canal’s eastern wall, while its stern looked lodged against its western wall, according to satellite data from MarineTraffic.com.
Several tug boats surrounded the ship, likely attempting to push it the right way, the data shows.
Opened in 1869, the Suez Canal provides a vital link for oil, gas and cargo being shipped from East to West.
Some 19,000 boats passed through the canal last year, according to the Suez Canal Authority.