The giant container ship, the Ever Given that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week has finally been freed after a mammoth salvage operation.

Tug boats honked their horns in celebration as the 400m-long (1,300ft) Ever Given was dislodged on Monday. The vessel was being towed for safety checks to Great Bitter Lake, which sits between two sections of the canal to the north of where the ship got stuck. 

To refloat it, Boskalis deployed a specialist salvage team, SMIT Salvage Papendrecht. They first freed the stern, with the bow following, despite high winds. 

Approximately 30,000 cubic metres of sand were dredged, with a total of 11 harbour tugs and two powerful seagoing tugs deployed.

On Sunday, canal officials had begun preparing to remove some of roughly 18,000 containers on board in order to lighten the load.

The containers are carrying a huge variety of items and the insured value of the cargo is believed to amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Image: Kees Torn – EVER GIVEN, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The Ever Given, operated by the Taiwanese company Evergreen Marine, is the length of four football pitches and is lying across the southern end of the canal preventing other ships from getting through one of the world's busiest waterways.

The ship is 400 metres (1,300ft) long, was wedged diagonally across a canal not much more than 200 metres (656ft) wide.

Shipping traffic software shows five tugs around the ship. The company which manages the running of the vessel, Bernhard Schulte Ship management (BSM) has said up to nine are available for the operation.

Using cables or placing themselves directly alongside the stricken ship, the tug boats worked on moving it off sand banks on both sides of the canal. 


There was a focus on digging out sand and mud from around the vessel's hull.

The Netherlands-based dredging company Boskalis managed this operation.

Maritime expert Sal Mercogliano says these dredgers are a familiar site on the Suez Canal, used to continually dredge the waterway to keep it passable.

"Large machines stick down into the water and basically pull dirt up from the bottom, which you can then deposit onshore."

The ship's management company BSM says an additional specialist "suction dredger" is now in place able to shift 2,000 cubic meters of material every hour.

However, Boskalis chief executive Peter Berdowski says dredging alone won't resolve the problem.

"It might take weeks depending on the situation" to free the ship using a combination of dredging, tugging and the removal of weight from the vessel. 

Removing cargo and fuel

A further option in efforts to re-float the 200,000 tonne vessel would be to remove fuel and cargo.

Draining fuel from the ship's tanks would be unlikely to reduce the weight sufficiently without other load-lightening measures.

A ship the size of the Ever Given can carry as many as 20,000 twenty-foot containers and an operation to remove these by crane would be highly challenging. 

Apart from the difficulties associated with getting suitable cranes close enough to the ship, the process could cause damage and even unbalance the ship.

"You would have to bring large floating cranes – but anything you do right now you would have to determine how it would affect the ship's stability," says Dr Mercogliano.

"Worst case scenario is that she breaks in half because of [uneven] weight distributions."

The 'Guardian' newspaper reported that global shipping companies are starting to re-route cargo away from a jam of vessels on both sides of the stricken container ship Ever Given, which is blocking one of the world’s key trade arteries.

The Japanese firm Shoei Kisen, which owns the vessel, said the refloating work was ongoing but no firm end point was yet in sight. “We don’t have an estimate for when the work will succeed,” a spokesperson told local media.

With the stuck ship holding up an estimated $9.5bn worth of goods in huge traffic jams at either end of the canal, seven tankers carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG) were diverted on Friday after the blockage caused traffic to be suspended.

Diverted towards longer route

Three of the tankers were being diverted towards the longer route around Africa, via the Cape of Good Hope, the data intelligence firm Kpler said, adding that most of the diverted tankers originally destined for Suez canal were now headed elsewhere.

“A total of 16 LNG vessels’ planned transit via the Suez canal will be affected if the congestion persists until the end of this week,” said Rebecca Chia, a Kpler anlayst based in Singapore.

As of Friday morning, the Panama-registered vessel, operated by Evergreen Marine of Taiwan, remained grounded in the same position, with tugboats and dredgers still working to free it, according to the canal service provider Leth Agencies.

An Egyptian canal authority official told Associated Press the refloating operation was a “very sensitive and complicated” operation. They wanted to avoid “any complications” that could extend the canal closure.

Remove up to 20,000 cubic metres of sand

The canal authority said late on Thursday it would need to remove up to 706,000 cubic feet (20,000 cubic metres) of sand to reach a depth of 39 to 52 feet (12 to 16 metres). That depth is likely to allow the ship to float freely again, it said.

At least four Long-Range 2 tankers that might have been headed towards Suez from the Atlantic basin were now likely to be evaluating a passage around the Cape of Good Hope, the London-based shipbroker Braemar ACM said on Friday. Each LR-2 tanker can carry 75,000 tonnes of oil.

The international shipping company Maersk said on Friday it was “looking at all alternatives” for its nine container ships stuck in the queues.

“Everyone is making contingency plans as we speak,” said Peter Sand, chief shipping analyst at BIMCO, according to CNN.

Specialist dredging company

Experts fear that the massive ship, which is 400-metres long and has a gross tonnage of almost 220,000, has wedged so far into the sand on either bank of the canal that it might not be possible to dislodge it without removing some of its cargo. Such a process could take weeks, according to Peter Berdowski, chief executive of Boskalis, a specialist dredging company that has sent a crew to the scene.

On Friday, more than 200 ships were stuck at the north and south ends of the canal. Originally built in the 1860s, the northern section was expanded into two lanes in 2015 but the southern section where the Ever Given is stuck is only one lane.

About 12% of all global trade flows through the 193km canal.

More than 50 ships traverse canal on average day

Lloyd’s List, the shipping data and news company, estimated on Friday that goods worth $9.6bn pass through the canal every day. About one quarter of that traffic is on container ships – like the one now burrowed into one side wall of the canal. Lloyd’s said more than 50 ships traverse the canal on an average day.

Flavio Macau, a senior lecturer in supply chain management at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, said it made sense for Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd to think about re-routing their shipping because longer delays at Suez could be costly.

“If you go to Suez you might expect to be 20th or 30th in line perhaps because there are about 50 ships in each direction every day,” he said. “But now you could be number 250 so that means you will be waiting three to four days to get through even when it reopens.” 

(Main image: By Kees Torn - EVER GIVEN, CC BY-SA 2.0,