Monday witnessed a pregnant moment in maritime history When one of the world’s largest container ships, the Ever Given, was wrenched from the shoreline and set free in the Suez Canal, the heroic achievement of the salvage teams, spread over six days, ensured that the clear waters would once again facilitate international trade.
Maritime traffic has resumed in the Suez, and this will contain the economic fallout of the dislocation. The geographical factor was no less critical.
The salvage teams were eventually assisted by forces more powerful than technology, pre-eminently the moon and the tides. Salvage crews had worked around a schedule largely influenced by the tides. The crew, already in a state of nerves, strove to ensure progress during the six hours it would take for the water to flow from low point to high and then back again, to summon maritime terminology.
Given a full moon on Sunday, the next 24 hours had offered quite the most propitious occasion to continue operations, with the tidal flow providing vital assistance at a crucial juncture. Throughout the night on Sunday and into Monday, tugboats worked in coordination with dredgers to return the vessel ~ is ‘float’ the right expression? ~ to the water.
The 220,000-ton vessel slowly returned to buoyancy just before dawn. The impediment was cleared. The Suez canal, the proud boast of the world and not Egypt alone, was free. Profound is its importance in maritime history; for the Suez Canal offers the quickest maritime route from Asia and West Asia to Europe and the East Coast of the United States of America.
That freedom at dawn could turn out to be a turning point in one of the largest and most intensive salvage operations in contemporary history not least because the global trading system was rather perilously hanging in the balance for the past week.
It is now pretty obvious that the salvage crew was engaged in a race against time. Each day of blockage rendered the global supply chains closer to what they call a “full-blown crisis”. The maritime denouement has now thankfully been averted and the importance is profound both in terms of international trade and freedom of the sea in the wider canvas. At the peak of the crisis in the sea, many ships took the long way around the southern tip of Africa.
The circuitous voyage could lengthen the journey by days and add significantly to fuel costs. The maritime crisis and the grave complexities have been addressed. Perfectly in order was the romantic euphoria, marked by blaring horns and shouts of joy that echoed in the desert dark. It was an adventurous epilogue to a maritime misadventure whose cause must now be investigated.