The Suez Canal’s Stranded Ship: Inside the Snafu Supply Chain That Could Ruin Your Vacation Plans

At 7:38 a.m., as it approached the irrigated fruit groves of Al Ganayen district, Already given rotate to the left bank, glide along it, then jerk to the right. The over-reinforcement was so severe that the bow of the ship rushed towards the opposite shore like a javelin. This time there is no time and space to undo the redirect. Head shape of Already givenThe bow of the ship sank 50 feet into the mud and sand of the canal bank. Maintaining its momentum, the stern rotated toward the far shore until it also rested.

Kanthavel’s response: “Damn it.”

Half a mile behind, on the Maersk . container jetty Denver, Marine engineer Julianne Cona pointed her camera forward and captured an image of Already givenThe hull extends from one shore to another. “From the looks of it,” she wrote on Instagram, “the ship is badly stuck. ”

Everyone wants know how it happened and who is responsible. It’s not just a craving for fancy details; Understanding how accidents happen is essential to making sure they don’t happen again. This is why around the world, transportation safety agencies conduct investigations and make rule change recommendations. Egypt, unfortunately, does not have a good track record. Accidents that occur from its perspective tend to involve conspiracies and controversies. More than 1,000 of the 1,400 ferry passengers on al-Salam Boccaccio 98 died when it sank in the Red Sea in 2006. The government initially blamed the captain, but a subsequent parliamentary investigation blamed the ferry’s owner, Mamdouh Ismail, a businessman and politician close relationship with then-President Hosni Mubarak. Arrested in a 2008 trial, he was later retrial, found guilty, and sentenced to seven years in prison, although he never served his sentence, and the sentence was later expunged.

With Used to give, The Egyptian government has no doubt about who is responsible. Within hours, it claimed, without proof, that the ship had run aground due to engine failure. After it became clear that this was not true, Egypt insisted that the captain was to blame for traveling at such high speed. In response, the ship’s insurers issued a statement indicating that when a ship passes through the canal in a train, its speed is “controlled by the pilots of the Suez Canal and the SCA train traffic management service.”

However, the canal authority has filed a legal claim for $916.5 million from the ship’s owner, citing, among other things, the cost of salvaging the boat and damage to its international reputation. economy of Egypt. Maritime legal experts cast doubt on the basis for this claim. “Obviously they’re just coming up with numbers,” said Martin Davies, head of Tulane University’s Center for Maritime Law.

And the accusations of Egypt strangely ambiguous. To understand exactly how things went wrong, I turned to a French academy with some insight into the matter: Port Revel, a shipbuilding school 50 miles south of Lyon. Its roots go back to the 1950s, when the oil company Esso (now Exxon) began to worry that its newer, larger tankers might erode the bottom of the Suez Canal. Engineers built miniature ships and sailed around the small canals to check the hydrology. The program eventually became a training facility where ship officers and pilots could receive hands-on training in command of 1/55 scale ships.

One summer morning, the Director of Port Revel, Mayor François, took me out on a miniature tanker to demonstrate the difficulties of navigating the canal. A gentle breeze blew the leaves of the birch trees along the grass-lined ditch leading to the Suez Canal. Although Port Revel’s ships are small, they are faithful to their proportions, and the force of the morning breeze on the model’s hull is what matters. Already given encountered on its fateful day.

“A very large ship is like a sailboat,” declared the Mayor. He positioned the boat at an angle, so that the forward thrust matched the wind thrust. To compensate for an even stronger wind, he can lean more into the wind or go faster. But within the narrow confines of a canal, you can’t see more angle. You can only go faster.

The problem is that in a canal, the faster you go, the more the propellers pull water out of the gap between the hull and the bottom of the canal. The pressure drops, reducing the efficiency of the rudder. The controls become a sloppy mess. “When you start to think that the driver is not good, that is when you should think about your speed,” said Mayor Bruno Mercier, a former pilot of Marseille. “As soon as you see a zigzag line, you better slow down.”

Dynamic is immutable: To go straight, you need to go faster, but if you go too fast, you lose control. According to Mayor, a simple way to cut this Gordian knot is with tugboats, which can buck and tow a ship as needed to cancel out the effects of the wind. Here’s what the Mayor told Suez Canal officials they were supposed to do when visiting Port Revel in 2016, and here’s what the rules say Already given should have done.

And so it sitting in the sweltering heat as March turns to April. Crew worried. They don’t know how long they can be stuck. Another ship is anchored in Great Bitter Lake, Aman, sat there for four years. That ship was also “arrested” due to a dispute between the ship’s owner and the Egyptian authorities. A Syrian sailor named Mohammed Aisha was forced to spend most of his time on the ship alone. For a long time, the Egyptians did not even let him leave the ship, until he began to swim ashore to buy food. Then they cut him some clothes and let him paddle ashore on a makeshift raft. Finally, at the end of April — roughly a month later Already givenlanding — the Egyptians let Aisha go, and he flew home.

NS Already given The crew’s vigilance is less lonely and they can enjoy the same modern amenities as they do at sea, like air conditioning and internet access. They have a comfortable lounge and a cluttered lounge, and each crew member has their own rooms furnished like hotel rooms, with desks, televisions, and refrigerators. But they worry. They do not know how long they will be forced to stay, or whether Egypt may decide to bring criminal charges. “It’s an endless tunnel,” said Abdulgani Serang, secretary general of the National Union of Seafarers of India, to which the crew belonged. “It comes at a physical and mental cost.”

There was absolutely nothing they could do while the negotiations dragged on. The Egyptians were holding out for a huge sum of money. 916 million dollars four times the amount Already given worth in itself, and roughly the value of the ship and its cargo. Shoei Kisen, the owner, countered with the $150 million offer. But Egypt held all the cards. The ship was in its jurisdiction, and the longer the bargain lasted, the less the value of the cargo. Production began to spoil; Holiday decorations have missed their sale by day. “A lot of these goods will become useless,” said Davies, Professor Tulane.

In the end, Egypt lowered its price to $550 million. After three months, the parties reached an agreement. Shoei Kisen agreed to pay an undisclosed amount and pledged that they would remain “regular and loyal customers of the Suez Canal.” NS Already given anchored 7 July and sailed north to Port Said, at the north end of the canal, where divers examined the hull for structural damage. With all clarity, Already given finally sailed a week later, to Rotterdam.

For the Indian crew, their release was a relief. For others in the maritime industry, that feeling is exasperating. SCA caused a ship to run aground, then forced shipowners and insurance companies to pay huge fees for the mistake. This is important to the iron law of free-market competition: If you can get a monopoly, you can take the wealth without being held accountable.

For shipping companies that use the canal, there is no comfort in knowing that steps will be taken to prevent a repeat. As required by international law, Panama is conducting an investigation, with the results likely to be released next year. But given Egypt’s record of past investigations, it is unlikely that the country will receive any criticism of the canal’s regulator, let alone take steps to resolve it. address the shortcomings there. So it wouldn’t be surprising if the exact same type of grounding happened again, along with the brouhaha waiter. The fundamental problem is that those entrusted with the safe passage of ships are not held accountable. “No matter how much trouble the pilot gets into, it’s the captain who is responsible,” KomLosy said. It’s a bit unfair, but it is what it is. ”

And that’s how it’s been for a long time, that’s why many people doubt that Already givenThese routes will affect the demand for waterways. “I don’t think it’s going to stop people from using the canal,” said Davies.

Then again, if accidents like Already givenkeep happening, things can change. While ships traveling between Asia and Europe will always have a strong incentive to take shortcuts via Suez, ships on other routes have more flexibility and can rethink their options. “If ships start to crash because of pilots, the calculation could change for some ships,” said an industry insider. “That will give Egypt an impetus for change.”

After passingthe Mediterranean and turning north, Already given arrived at the port of call in Rotterdam on 29 July, 129 days after landing. With the containers unloaded, it sailed for Felixstowe, England, where the rest of the cargo was moved to its final destinations. Later Already given back out to sea, bound to a repair yard in China. Its roadmap was never really laid out. It passes through the Suez Canal.

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