The best chance for freeing a massive container ship that’s blocking the Suez Canal may not come until Sunday or Monday, when the tide will reach a peak.
Nick Sloane, the salvage master responsible for refloating the Costa Concordia, the cruise ship that capsized on the coast of Italy in 2012, said that the spring tide on Sunday and Monday will add an extra 18 inches (46 centimeters) in depth, allowing for more maneuvering.
The massive size of the Ever Given, which ran aground in the southern part of the canal on Tuesday, is foiling efforts of tugboats and marine excavators to get it back into navigable waters and on its way. The ship is about a quarter mile long (400 meters) and weighs 200,000 metric tons.
“This is definitely not a quick refloat operation,” Sloane, who has participated in at least a hundred salvage operations of ships, aircrafts, oil rigs and pipelines, said in a phone interview from Cape Town.
The canal authority is expected to try to dislodge the Ever Given on Thursday, weather permitting. For that, they may use four or five extra tugs after an attempt on Wednesday failed, Sloane said. Dredgers are digging around the ship to allow it to back out of its position, and if it it doesn’t budge, the next step is to drain the ballast water and the fuel.
Richard Meade, London-based managing editor of Lloyd’s List Maritime Intelligence, also agrees that it will become easier to free the ship by Monday.
“You have a significant increase in water there,” he said.
But if efforts on Sunday and Monday also fail, the delays for shipping traffic will likely get even worse.
The next opportunity would be another 12 to 14 days away, when tides are expected to swell again, said Sloane, who works as the senior salvage master for Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Resolve Marine Group.