Suez Canal: How did they move the Ever Given?

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Image shows the ship on Monday morningImage source, EPA
Image caption,
The Ever Given has now been successfully freed from both banks of the canal

Efforts to free a container ship wedged diagonally across the Suez Canal have succeeded.

The 400m (1300ft) Ever Given was stuck in the mud and sand right across the southern end of the canal since Tuesday.

How was the ship moved?

A fleet of tugs using cables or placing themselves directly alongside the stricken ship, worked for many days to free it.

Ship tracking software shows the ship now free from both banks and moving northwards along the canal.

As tugs struggled in their attempts to move the ship through the week, dredgers were brought in to dig mud and sand from under the bow and stern of the ship.

These dredgers are a familiar sight on the Suez Canal, said maritime expert Sal Mercogliano, and are used to continually dredge the waterway to keep it navigable.

"Large machines stick down into the water and basically pull dirt up from the bottom, which you can then deposit onshore."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Picture taken from a nearby tugboat showing the ship's partially freed position on Monday morning

The company which manages the running of the vessel, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) said an additional specialist "suction dredger" had been brought in, able to shift 2,000 cubic metres (440,000 gallons) of material every hour.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Diggers on the ground are clearing sand and mud away from the bow
Image source, © Cnes2021, Distribution Airbus DS
Image caption,
Satellite images show ships waiting to pass through the blocked Suez Canal

The combination of the tug boats and dredging equipment dislodged the ship.

If these had failed, there would have been a third option - removing some cargo and fuel from the boat.

It would have required a delicate and lengthy operation.

Draining fuel from the ship's tanks might have helped, but was unlikely to be sufficient without other load-lightening measures.

A ship the size of the Ever Given can carry as many as 20,000 twenty-foot containers and an operation to remove these by crane would have been highly challenging.

Apart from the difficulties associated with getting suitable cranes close enough to the ship, the process could have caused damage and even unbalanced the ship.

Image source, Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies
Image caption,
Satellite images last week showed how the Ever Given had completely blocked the canal

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