ISMAILIA, Egypt – In the dark of dawn, Magdy Gamal sat on Musaed 2 Bridge and looked at an iron wall and nothing. So far, nothing has touched during six hectic and risky days the sheer volume of since when200,000 tonnes of steel and consumer goods block the fourth busiest shipping route in the world.
Day in and day out, the stationary mass was hovering over a swarm of machines and humans – bulldozers, bulldozers, tugboats – that had been dug, pushed and towed, to no avail. As the C2 cables and engines and other locomotives reached the blast point, all attempts to loosen the grip of gravity on the hull with each tide deserted it, and the water receded in a relentless cycle. “The tide is a ghost we are trying to confront,” said Jamal, 30.
Now they are at their last and best chance. On Monday, the sun and moon were aligned to draw Earth’s water in the same direction, resulting in a “king tide,” one of the highest in the year. If the efforts failed again, the Egyptian government was ready to begin the mammoth task of unloading 18,000 shipping containers at Ever Givene, one by one.
Global trade was lagging every hour at either end Suez Canal Blocked. The economic and political pressure to free the ship increased. The world, distracted by a year of epidemic, has not taken its eyes off the screens.
All this created an even greater danger. Sailors know fast and heavy marine machinery a deadly combination. They call the area around the tow cables the “flagellum”, where cable breaks cut arms and smash skulls.
About Jamal there were at least ten more locomotives and a hundred crew members. The image of Egypt was at stake. He said a prayer and put his hand on the gas.
About a week ago, just before dawn on March 23, a convoy of 20 ships entered the southern gate of the canal, near the Egyptian city of Suez.
For sailors, navigating the narrow canal is as annoying as riding a taut bike. “You have no margin for error,” said Joe Reynolds, 55, the chief engineer who has crossed the canal dozens of times. His container ship arrived shortly after Evergiven for an unparalleled transit.
At 7:08 a.m., as the sun rose an hour above the desert horizon, Ever Geffen entered a canal artery and approached a right turn. Satellite data shows that the ship began sliding at more than 24 kilometers per hour, which is much faster than the channel’s speed limit: less than 16 kilometers per hour.
What was happening on the Evergreen Bridge, where the captain and two certified Suez Canal pilots were on duty, remains a mystery. But some maritime authorities indicated that winds of up to 56 kilometers per hour were blowing from the south, to blow across the wall of the container.
For more than half an hour, the ship had been swaying from side to side, according to satellite tracking, thinning the banks, until its stern seemed to be wandering off the left coast. The bow immediately tilted sharply to the right, and the 200-million-kilogram ship collided with the canal’s eastern sand bank at a speed of 21 kilometers per hour.
It was 7:44 am and Evergift was squeezed from bow to stern.
The ships behind him slowed the engines and stopped. Julian Kona, an engineer at Maersk Denver, after protecting her now parked vessel on the Suez Canal, took a moment to post a photo on Instagram. “It looks like we’ll be staying here for a while,” she wrote.
High speed when in doubt
Ever since faltered in a narrow stretch of the canal, Egypt did not expand any of the sections in 2015 as part of a $ 8.5 billion expansion to accommodate large ships and allow two-way traffic. Even small ships were unable to maneuver around the stranded vessel, which hampered the efforts of rescue boats and even large cargo ships.
Shortly after stranding, two of the first rescuers on the waterway, Musaed 2 and the tugboat Izzat Adel, arrived at the site. The Suez Canal Authority maintains a fleet of 31 locomotives, but in the past, two were more than enough to ship ships. Only one locomotive was needed to free an oil tanker in an accident in the 1990s, according to an old canal man. The authorities hope that this siege will be lifted quickly.
To the sailors of the Channel, the ship’s exceptionally high speed seemed suspicious. “It was probably one of the factors that caused the delinquency,” said Ramadan, a senior crew member. “Sometimes, when there are strong winds, you need to go more quickly to maneuver the right ship.”
On the second day, the canal authorities sent in bulldozers, which keep the canal deep and wide enough for ships to pass. It was just after eight at night when the first graphene arrived, making way among all the waiting ships.
On that day, more reinforcements came: a team of specialists from Smit, a Dutch rescue company that was called out by the ship’s Japanese owners.
Villagers along the canal watched the escalating rescue in amazement. The largest ship they have ever seen above their homes and crops.
“No ship has ever been stuck here in my entire life,” said Hassan, a 49-year-old truck driver who lives in Manshiyat Rugula, a small village next to the huge Evergiven hull. “It is destiny.”
On the other ships deployed on the canal, there was nothing to do but wait. The crew alternated their shifts, watched movies during the broadcast, and monitored electronic maps that showed the location of the stranded ship. The Egyptian agricultural authorities said that they had provided more than 300 tons of fodder to more than 60,000 heads of sheep and 420 cows on their way to the country. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia And yes Jordan.
By Saturday, the ship had already formed its own port. There were at least 14 locomotives available. Small boats carry equipment, food, and crew. There were diving and maintenance teams, more than 200 people in the water, working 24 hours a day, according to interviews with rescue teams.
On Sunday night, the first large tugboat of 3,700 tons was from Rotterdam. It’s a Godzilla tugboat, said Gregory Tilosky, a licensed ship captain and founder of the Marine Specialists Group.
At around 3 a.m. on Monday, the excavations centered on the Evergreen Arc. A specialized dredge, capable of removing two thousand cubic meters of sand per hour, chews the shore.
And suddenly they thought they felt a movement. Very slow, yeah, but it looks like Evergiven’s ass was creeping towards the deeper waters. At about five in the morning, they were sure. “We believed in God and in ourselves that our efforts would not be in vain,” said Jamal.
But the arch was still buried in Egyptian sand.
Shortly before dawn, the second large locomotive, Italian Carlo Magno, with a crew of 13, arrived from the south, coming from The United Arab Emirates.
At 2:45 pm, as the tide receded, the locomotives appeared to be boycotting operations, leaving some crew members afraid of failing again. But after half an hour, they turned on their fans for another big boost.
Then de Cesares recalls, “There was no noise. We could only feel the motors of our propellers pushing and we realized the speed was changing. Instead of standing idly by, we were moving forward.”
The ship was free. It was the end.
Locomotive sirens sounded. Sailors hugged each other. The two teams clapped.
Then they posted videos of the celebration, so that the world who had been holding out for six days could share their joy./ Renato Prelorentzo translation
* O’Grady Books from Washington. Hendrix from Jerusalem. Heba Farouk Mahfouz, from The Washington Post in Cairo, and Stefano Petrelli in Rome contributed to this report.