The head of a Dutch company helping to free the container ship that has been stuck in the Suez Canal for almost a week warned Monday that completely refloating the mammoth vessel will be “no piece of cake,” according to reports.
The bow of the Ever Given – a 1,300-foot-long container ship weighing 200,000 tons — is still stuck in sand, meaning the toughest part of the operation may still lie ahead, said Boskalis CEO Peter Berdowski, Agence France-Presse reported.
“The good news is that the stern is free but in our view that was the easier part. The challenge is still ahead, because you really have to slide the ship, with the weight it is carrying,” Berdowski, whose firm is the parent company of Smit Salvage, told NPO Dutch public radio.
“The bow is still completely stuck in that bit of sandy clay at the moment. The real challenge, of course, is to actually slide the ship away,” he said.
“Our first concern was whether the stern would come loose, because it was pretty stuck too. So that’s definitely the good news. But I wouldn’t say it was a piece of cake to free it now,” Berdowski added.
The CEO said he did not want to “cheer too soon” after the head of the Suez Canal authority said the ship was now pointing 80 percent in the right direction.
A fleet of tugboats partially freed the vessel on Sunday with help from a high tide caused by a supermoon.
Berdowski said the Ever Given is still a “huge whale lying there on the beach that you really have to slide off,” according to AFP.
On Monday, tugs could be seen maneuvering around the titanic ship — some with tow lines attached — churning the water.
The high tide was expected to return at 11:30 a.m. local time on Monday.
At least 369 vessels were waiting to transit the canal, including dozens of container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers and liquefied natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas ships, SCA Chairman Osama Rabie said, Reuters reported.
The SCA has said it can accelerate the stalled flotilla through the canal once the Ever Given is freed.
“We will not waste one second,” Rabie told Egyptian state TV.
Marine traffic will restart once the Ever Given is directed to the lakes area, a wider section of the canal, the SCA said.
Rabie said it could take up to three days to clear the backlog, and a canal source said more than 100 ships would be able to enter the channel daily.
A source involved in the operation told Reuters they were re-ballasting the ship and expected that with a favorable tide, cargo would not need to be removed.
“The good news is she’s moved. But she is still stuck in the mud. A second large anchor-handling tug will arrive this morning. Hopefully they will be able to pull her free,” the source said.