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The Suez Canal: The blockage costs between 5 and 8 billion a day for world maritime trade

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After almost a week of standstill, the container ship stuck in the Suez Canal pulled away from the West Bank overnight Sunday through Monday. But the hardest part is to be done.

We have all seen the news the MV ever given is blocking the Suez Canal but why can’t they just pull it out why can’t they just get it free, let’s illustrate some of the challenges that they’re facing and explain why it’s such a big problem to get it free?

MV Ever Given and why can’t it be pulled out

First we need to know that in the south of the Suez Canal there is a single canal and in the north there are dual canals or two canals, and the evergreen is stuck in the south and not the north, in the north this would never have been a problem since there are two canals.

We need to understand that the vessel is 400 meters long and goes as deep as 15 meters or 45 feet, also the total weight of the vessel is 200 000 tons that is the same as 200 000 cars when floating, a stock vessel can easily move the vessel around, but the vessel is not floating anymore, it’s landed on the beach. In the picture we see that the nose of the vessel has hit land, what is difficult to see is that the nose is just the tip of the iceberg, since the vessel may go as deep as 15 meters it is very likely that the vessel at this point is about 15 meters embedded into the seabed. Since the vessel is now on the sand it has become a frictional problem to move the vessel. This is the same as when we are dragging a box on the table.

The Samson

Part of the vessel is now resting on the sand assuming that it’s around 1/3 of the vessel weight that is resting on the sand, then the frictional force required to move the vessel is around 50% of the weight resting on sand, that is 50% of one third of 200 000, that is 33 000 tons. So 33 000 tons will be required to pull to move the vessel away from the sand.

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The vessel far Samson is likely the vessel in the world with the highest pull capacity or bullet pool. It has a capacity to pull 420 tons, that means that we would need 80 fast Samson to pull the MV ever given free, and there’s just not enough space in the channel to have 80 vessels pulling at the same time. Also, the far Samson is the only one of its kind in the world.

Digging option

A second option is to dig underneath the vessel, so if the vessel is 15 meters below sea level, then from land an excavator most likely needs to stand 30 meters from the vessel reaching and 15 meters deep. The reason that the reach is likely 30 meters is that it’s not possible to excavate vertically in sand underwater, sand will simply flow out and can’t remain stable. There is no excavator that will have this reach, the reach is simply too long, so the next option is to use an offshore dredge which will suck or excavate soil underneath the vessel.

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These types of vessels dredging vessels are mostly designed to escalate underneath the vessel, and not horizontally in front of the vessel, therefore these types of vessels are not built to face this challenge. They are offshore excavators, but again they are not designed to dig so long in front but maybe this could be a possible solution.

Maybe the vessel needs to be, unloaded that means taking off all the containers where the vessel is located today and the challenge is that the vessel is designed to be offloaded while in port, so cranes may struggle to lift all these containers off, either way, lifting containers off will be a very long process, we will see that the Suez Canal is going to be closed for some time going forward.

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