The cargo ship that has blocked the Suez Canal since Tuesday—and epitomized the mood of a battered and exhausted public—could be freed on Saturday night, some optimistic reports suggest.
But, as the ship’s calamitous journey has so far indicated, there is plenty that could still go wrong.
Yukito Higaki, president of the Japanese company that owns the Ever Given, said he hoped that a weekend high tide and the dislodging efforts already underway would help to refloat the ship, NBC reported. He also apologized for the multi-billion dollar mess.
“We apologize for blocking the traffic and causing the tremendous trouble and worry to many people, including the involved parties,” Higaki said.
The blockade on one of the busiest shipping routes in the world has stalled hundreds of vessels and triggered an unfurling trade crisis. The jam has held up nearly $10 billion in trade each day, according to The New York Times, and added another layer of stress onto an industry already kneecapped by pandemic-induced lockdowns.
Bloomberg reports that Ikea is among the slew of companies facing supply-chain issues, which is stressful news to anyone in the market for a cheap bookshelf. The Swedish company is reportedly “considering all options to ensure availability of products.” Construction equipment company Caterpillar “is said to be considering airlifting products if necessary.”
In some positive news, the 1,312-foot long Ever Given ship had moved slightly as of Saturday morning, Reuters reports. The ship’s rudder finally began to operate on Friday night, and by the afternoon the stern had moved as well.
One Suez Canal pilot told CNN that he believed the ship could be removed by Saturday night.
“The locomotives are now full force and the ship is starting to operate its machines,” Hend Fathy Hussein, a spokeswoman for the Suez Canal Economic Zone, wrote on Facebook. “[B]ut it hasn’t been floating yet.”
Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, said in a press conference on Saturday that he “could not say” when the ship might be free. Unusually strong winds continue to hinder attempts to move it.
The BBC reported that 14 tugboats are aiding in Saturday’s refloating efforts. High winds were initially blamed for the grounding, but Rabie said on Saturday that human error may have played a part, too.
“The weather was one reason, but maybe there was a technical error, or a human error,” he said.
Workers are currently digging out the stuck ship and using tugboats to dislodge it. A worst case scenario, Rabie said, would be removing some of the cargo to lighten the load.
The Ever Given has a capacity for 20,000 containers; according to the BBC removing that weight could take “weeks” and require “specialist equipment.”
If the ship is not freed on Saturday, the Times reported that its “best chance” might come on Monday, when a high tide is predicted that could helpfully push up water levels.
The canal provides a thoroughfare for around 15 percent of global shipping traffic.