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Questions being asked after box ship runs aground blocking Suez Canal

The 20,388 teu containership Ever Given has been freed after grounding against the seawall of the Suez Canal, and traffic on the waterway is expected to resume once the vessel is towed to an anchorage for inspection.

An update at noon local time from GAC port news said that, according to information from the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), “the grounded vessel has been partially re-floated and is now alongside the canal bank”.

Prompt action by the SCA to free the stranded vessel which was blocking the canal has avoided a nightmare for shipping of either being stuck or facing a diversion around Cape Hope adding a week to Asia-North Europe voyages and incurring high fuel costs.

Indeed, oil prices spiked this morning at the prospect of a major disruption to canal transits.

Lars Jensen, of SeaIntelligence, estimates that some 55,000 teu a day from Asia to Europe currently transits the Suez Canal as vessels continue to run full on the tradelane.

According to eeSea data, the 2018-built Ever Given is deployed on the Ocean Alliance’s NEU6 loop and was “on time” en route to Rotterdam when the incident happened at around 8am local time yesterday.

Evergreen said it understood that the grounding of the chartered ULCV was the result of “gusting winds of 30 knots causing the ship to deviate from its course”, but said it had asked the shipowner to investigate the cause.

A spokesperson for the ship’s technical manager, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), told The Loadstar this morning: “All crew are safe and accounted for. There have been no reports of injuries, pollution or cargo damage, and initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding.”

However, the local GAC agency suggested that the vessel had suffered a mechanical black out causing it to lose power. Indeed, a retired master mariner The Loadstar spoke to this morning said he thought power failure was the most likely cause of the casualty.

“I can’t believe that high winds caused the ship to change course as dramatically as it did, but if the ship temporarily lost all power then the wind force on the fully-loaded deck of containers could render it pretty helpless,” he said. “It must have been frightening for the officers on the bridge.”

BSM said the vessel would undergo a full inspection and that it would “cooperate fully with the relevant authorities on reports of the incident”.

Questions will be asked as to why other ULCVs following in the convoy were apparently not also affected by the strong winds, which at 30 knots are not particularly unusual.

Nevertheless, the immediate attention will be on whether the ship suffered any hull or bottom damage as a result of the grounding that requires immediate repair and possible dry-docking.

Depending on the results of the survey, the vessel could be allowed to proceed on its voyage for a later repair or, in case of immediate attention, this could involve the discharge of all of its cargo for onward relay by other Ocean Alliance vessels, with lengthy delays for consignees in Europe awaiting their cargo.

Moreover, according to casualty marine claims consultancy WK Webster, there is a possibility that, depending on the outcome, owners may decide to declare General Average.

By Gavin van Marle From The Loadstar

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