Stuck Container Ship in Suez Canal Could Soon Be Dislodged—Here's the Plan

A container ship that is blocking the Suez Canal could be refloated and moved on as early as today, according to the Japanese company that owns the ship. The stuck vessel has caused a significant international trade crisis.

The MV Ever Given has been lodged diagonally across the Suez Canal in Egypt since Tuesday and has resulted in a major backlog of shipping through the vital waterway.

Representatives of the ship's owners, a company called Shoei Kisen Kaisha, gave a press conference in Japan on Friday in which they said there was no damage to the ship's engines or instruments and held out hope that it could soon be moved.

"The ship is not taking water. There is no problem with its rudders and propellers. Once it refloats, it should be able to operate," said Yukito Higaki, president of Shoei Kisen Kaisha.

The company is aiming to refloat the vessel "Saturday night Japan time." Japan is 11 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast. Therefore, the ship could be refloated during Saturday morning or afternoon in the U.S. Egypt is six hours ahead of the East Coast.

"We are continuing work to remove sediment as of now, with additional dredging tools," Higaki said, according to news agency news agency Asahi Shimbun.

The plan to refloat the Ever Given involves using machinery to remove pulverized rocks around the ship. Workers have already begun this process. An attempt will then be made to free the vessel when the canal is at high tide. The ship's crew has been working overnight with dredging equipment with the assistance of floodlights.

Two additional tugs are also expected to arrive by Sunday to assist in the process, according to Dutch company Smit Salvage.

MV Ever Green in the Suez Canal
A woman walks with children in the northeastern Egyptian city of Ismailiya, in front of the Taiwan-owned MV 'Ever Given' (Evergreen) container ship, lodged sideways and impeding traffic across the Suez Canal, on March 27, 2021. - The owner of a megaship blocking the canal hopes to refloat it as early as Saturday. Ahmad HASSAN / AFP/Getty Images

The trapped ship has caused a traffic jam of around 200 ships waiting to enter the canal at both ends. The Suez Canal is one of the most crucial world trade routes, with around 19,000 ships passing through it in 2020, according to the Suez Canal Authority (SCA).

Some shipping has been diverted around the Cape of Good Hope but this route will significantly increase the distance vessels will have to cover to arrive at their destinations and will be a week slower than using the canal.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, shows the number of vessels and the net tonnage transiting the Suez.

Suez Canal transit traffic

The Ever Given is one of the world's largest container ships at 400m (1300ft) long. The ship has a gross tonnage of 219,000 and a dead weight of 199,000 tonnes and is currently wedged in the 120-mile long canal.

There have already been attempts to refloat the ship by the vessel's technical manager, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM). An effort on Friday failed.

"The focus is now on dredging to remove sand and mud from around the port side of the vessel's bow," BSM said, according to RTÉ News.

The vessel is operated by Taiwanese company Evergreen Marine Corporation. The firm has "urged the shipowner to investigate the cause of this accident, and work closely with Suez Canal Authority and related agencies to refloat the stranded ship as soon as possible."

MV Ever Given Lodged in the Canal
A handout picture released by the Suez Canal Authority on March 24, 2021 shows the Taiwan-owned MV Ever Given (Evergreen), a 400-metre- (1,300-foot-)long and 59-metre wide vessel, lodged sideways and impeding all traffic across the waterway of Egypt's Suez Canal. The ship could be refloated as early as today. Suez Canal Authority/HO/AFP/Getty Images