Suez clearance could take 'weeks': Salvage firm

A team from Smit Salvage was to arrive Thursday at the scene where the MV Ever Given ran aground during a sandstorm
Last Updated 25 March 2021, 16:02 IST

The recovery of a huge container vessel blocking the Suez Canal could take "days or weeks", said the head of a Dutch salvage firm that has sent experts to help.

A team from Smit Salvage was to arrive Thursday at the scene where the MV Ever Given ran aground during a sandstorm, said Peter Berdowski, chief executive of its parent company Boskalis.

"It's really a heavy whale on the beach, so to speak," Berdowski told the Dutch TV news programme Nieuwsuur late Wednesday, when asked about the challenges of moving the vessel.

"I don't want to speculate, but it can take days or weeks."

The timeline of weeks "cannot be ruled out" because the work could include removing individual containers from the ship and some dredging "if it is really stuck", Berdowski added.

"There is still petrol and water that you can take out. You have to lose weight wherever possible. If that doesn't work you are left with a combination of solutions, including taking off containers."

Getting the necessary gear to the site could also take time "because you have to realise that the equipment you need is of course not necessarily around the corner", he said.

Berdowski said it could now be too late to use tugboats.

"The risk is that you break the ship," he explained.

Smit Salvage, which was bought by Boskalis in 2010, has worked on high-profile salvage operations in recent years, including the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk and Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia.

The firm says it has "emergency response bases" in Rotterdam, Houston, Cape Town and Singapore, and deals with salvaging ships, recovering wrecks, and pumping hazardous substances from grounded boats.

Berdowski said the team heading to the site would assess a number of factors when deciding how best to move the 400-metre (1,300-foot) Panama-flagged ship.

"The most important thing they will do is first to make an inventory of the position of the ship, and of course to go aboard," he said.

The team will also use satellite imagery and video footage, and were preparing a computer model.

(Published 25 March 2021, 15:56 IST)

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