Stuck ship thrusts sleepy Suez Canal village into limelight

AMER, Egypt (AP) — The sleepy farming village of Amer overlooks the Suez Canal, one of the world’s most important waterways. Last week, the village was suddenly thrust into the limelight after a massive container ship, the Ever Given, got stuck nearby.

Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship blocks the Suez Canal almost a week after it got stuck sideways in the crucial waterway, Monday, March 29, 2021. Engineers on Monday “partially refloated” the colossal container ship that continues to block traffic through the Suez Canal, a canal services firm said, without providing further details about when the vessel would be fully set free.

Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship blocks the Suez Canal almost a week after it got stuck sideways in the crucial waterway, Monday, March 29, 2021. Engineers on Monday “partially refloated” the colossal container ship that continues to block traffic through the Suez Canal, a canal services firm said, without providing further details about when the vessel would be fully set free. March 29, 2021

The contrast between tranquil village life and the busy artery of global shipping is stark. Farmers in Amer eke out a living tending to small fields and livestock, while before them pass behemoths of world trade — vessels carrying millions of dollars’ worth of cargo.

But the canal is also a source of intense pride for residents of the area, including the nearby town of Suez. They call it “our canal” and the older ones still remember then-President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s decision in 1956 to nationalize the canal despite fierce pressure from Western powers.

“I was five or six years old, celebrations were everywhere,” said Abdel-Wahab, 71, who works as a waiter in Suez. “It was like you freed your son who was taken against your will.” The village, along with other areas along the western bank of the canal, was abandoned during the 1967 Mideast war and its residents were only allowed to return in the 1970s.

They are now rooting for canal authorities as they battle to dislodge the vessel. It was a windy morning when the Ever Given — one of the world’s largest container ships — got wedged sideways in a single-lane stretch of the canal last Tuesday.

Amer resident Fatima was feeding poultry on the roof of her three-story home when she saw the massive ship sitting motionless in the canal. At first, she didn’t think it was unusual. “Sometimes, one vessel stops for a reason or another,” the elderly woman said Sunday,

Dressed in a dark blue jalabiya, or traditional loose-fitting garment, she was sitting at the gate of her house with a neighbor. The women were chatting and drinking tea. Like other villagers, they did not want to give their full names for fear of getting in trouble with the authorities who have restricted media access to the area.

Almost a week after the accident, tug boats and dredgers, taking advantage of high tides, partially floated the Ever Given on Monday, but it remains unclear how long it would take to set it free. The pointed bow of the Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned vessel remains stuck on sandy clay along the canal bank. Experts said that despite the partial success, the worst option — having to remove containers from the vessel to lighten the load — is not yet off the table.

The giant ship carries some 20,000 containers. Taking them off would likely add even more days to the canal’s closure, further disrupting a global shipping network. A prolonged closure would cause delays in the global shipment chain. The canal handles some 10% of the world trade flow. Last year, some 19,000 vessels passed through it, according to official figures.

The closure could affect oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East. Already, Syria has begun rationing the distribution of fuel in the war-torn country because of delayed shipments. Over the past week, the salvage efforts have been the main topic of conversation in Amer, home to several thousand people who grow clover and cabbage and tend to water buffaloes, cows, goats and sheep.

“We have not seen anything like that before,” Abdel-Wahab, the waiter, said of the Ever Given’s misfortune. Journalists have been visiting the village, in part to get a better view of the vessel. “For sure, you’re coming for the ship,” whispered a farmer to a reporter. His donkey cart was sitting in the middle of a narrow road just a few dozen meters (yards) from the vessel.

“It’s there, standing like the mountain,” said another man when asked how to get closer to the ship. Villager Mohammed Said, 72, who works in Suez as a garbage collector, said the grounding of the Ever Given is unique in the canal’s history, and that he hopes the vessel can be dislodged quickly.

El Canal de Suez logra reflotar el Ever Given y dice que reanudará circulación – Diario Financiero

Una buena noticia recibió el comercio global la mañana de este lunes. Luego de cinco días y noches de ardo trabajo, finalmente el gigantesco portacontenedores que bloqueó el Canal de Suez por casi una semana fue completamente reflotado el lunes, lo que implica que se reanudará el tráfico marítimo en la vía.

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La autoridad del Canal de Suez confirmó la actualización a través de un comunicado, precisando que remolcadores arrastraron el Ever Given, alejándolo del costado de la vía fluvial, donde se encontraba alojado desde el martes pasado.

El paso que sigue es poner en marcha esfuerzos para reiniciar la navegación marítima, con más de 450 embarcaciones esperando cerca del canal. El retraso ha puesto a prueba las cadenas de suministro mundiales que ya se han visto afectadas por la pandemia, ya que la ruta es un conducto para aproximadamente el 12% del comercio mundial.

Más temprano, el jefe de la entidad egipcia que gestiona el canal, Osama Rabie, anunció “el comienzo del reflote con éxito del barco Ever Given después de que respondiera con éxito a las maniobras de arrastre y remolque”, informó la Autoridad en un comunicado publicado en página de Facebook.

Rabie detalló que tras el último intento de reflotación en la madrugada del lunes, en el participaron 10 remolcadores, habían logrado modificar la orientación del buque en un 80 % y alejarlo de la orilla del canal 102 metros, frente a los cuatro en los que se situaba antes.

Según precisaba el comunicado de la autoridad gestora, “se reanudarán las maniobras otra vez cuando el nivel del agua suba a su punto más elevado hasta 2 metros en torno a las 11.30 de la mañana” hora local. Sin embargo, dicho intento no tuvo resultados positivos, por lo que a las 15:00 hora local se realizó otro movimiento, que sí permitió reflotar el barco. 

Este portacontenedores de 400 metros de eslora y 224.000 toneladas de capacidad de carga, de bandera panameña y propiedad de la firma taiwanesa Evergreen, quedó encallado y atravesado el pasado martes en el tramo sur debido, según la Autoridad del canal, a los fuertes vientos y una tormenta de arena.

Esto ha generado un embotellamiento en esta vía marítima, una de las más transitadas del mundo y por la que pasa el 10% del comercio mundial, que alcanzaba este lunes las 367 embarcaciones, según la empresa especializada en servicios logísticos en canales y estrechos Leth Agencies, que ya había avanzado esta madrugada el reflote parcial de la nave.

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