High Tide in Suez Canal Raises Hopes of Freeing Cargo Ship

SUEZ, Egypt—Salvage teams girded for another attempt to free the Ever Given container ship that has been blocking the Suez Canal for five days, hoping that higher-than-usual spring tides late Sunday will help them unstick the 1,300-foot vessel from the channel, but their rescue efforts could be complicated by damage to the vessel’s bow.

The ship’s manager, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, said water had gotten into two forward tanks, but that the ship was stable. “The bow was partly wedged in a rock formation and it made the effort more difficult,” a member of the salvage team said. Strong winds were also hampering the operation, people familiar with the matter said.

People involved in the tightly-secured operation had earlier suggested the Ever Given, operated by Taiwan-based Evergreen Group, might have been freed as early as Saturday. A rescue team had managed to free the ship’s rudder and start its engines after it veered off course during stormy conditions on March 23, blocking the critical trade route to traffic and disrupting global supply chains. Some 320 vessels are waiting to traverse the 120-mile channel, according to the Suez Canal Authority, which runs the waterway.

Dredging operations continued Sunday before the salvage prepared the latest attempt to free the Ever Given. They hoped that higher spring tides beginning in the evening would buoy the ship and make it easier to dislodge without having to unload containers to reduce its weight, a difficult maneuver given its location and the more than 18,000 containers involved.

“We hope we don’t reach a scenario of having to start taking containers off the ship, but we are preparing for it in case we have to,” said Osama Rabie, chairman of the canal authority, adding that these were the instructions of President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.

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