THE skyscraper-sized ship which is blocking the Suez Canal crashed into a small ferry two years ago.
Last week, the 400-metre-long Ever Given – which is as big as the Empire State Building – smashed into the bank of the shipping lane blaming high winds but was partially refloated this morning.
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It has now emerged that the same monster container ship had another serious maritime accident in 2019 which was again blamed on strong winds.
Operated then and now by Taiwan shipping firm Evergreen, the giant boat crashed into a small ferry sparking a criminal probe in Germany.
However, the investigation did not find fault with the ship’s captain, reports the Wall Street Journal.
On February 9, 2019, the Ever Given ran into the Finkenwerder, a 75-foot pleasure boat.
The smaller vessel was moored alongside a pontoon – which is a small, flat boat – in a suburb of Hamburg.
According to reports, the huge cargo ship was en route to Rotterdam in the Netherlands from China when it crashed – the same journey it was on last week when it became stranded.
The accident saw it mangle the ferry and nearly pull the pontoon free of the shore.
Luckily, no passengers were on the ferry although the captain was slightly injured, said Liddy Oechtering, a spokesperson for the Hamburg Public Prosecutor’s Office.
A criminal probe launched by police found no misconduct and determined that he had been surprised by winds.
Investigators found that the boat’s slow speed had hindered its ability to move away from the river bank.
It is not known whether the current captain of the Ever Given was in charge of the boat in 2019.
The massive ship was only built in 2018 yet has been cited for minor safety infringements during inspections, European Union database Equasis reports.
Last year, a routine check at the UK port of Felixstowe found three deficiencies, including an incorrect oil-record book and damaged pilot ladders.
Satellite data shows the Ever Given has been straightened after its rear end was moved thanks to high tides brought on by a supermoon.
Yet, it remains unclear when the major trading route will reopen again for the hundreds of others boats waiting to pass through.
The 400m-long Ever Given became wedged in the shipping lane due to extreme weather conditions last Tuesday holding up £6.5billion a day in global trade.
Canal officials said the skyscraper-sized boat had been turned “80 per cent in the right direction” after the stern was shifted with “pulling manoeuvres” that moved it 335ft from the bank.
However, officials said that while the boat has been partially refloated, rescuers were still working to move the ship’s front end.
Canal authorities have desperately tried to free the vessel by relying on tug boats and digging, even as analysts warned the monster vessel may be too heavy for such an operation.
As a window for a breakthrough narrows with high tide receding this week, fears have grown that authorities would be forced to lighten the cargo ship by removing its 20,000 containers.
This is a complex operation, requiring specialised equipment not found in Egypt and could take days or WEEKS to complete.
The salvage team’s next step is dredging beneath the vessel’s bow with high pressure water jets to wrench the ship from the clay, said Peter Berdowski, CEO of Dutch firm Boskalis which is helping in the rescue effort.
“If that doesn’t work, then in the end you will have to remove weight and that can only happen by removing containers from the front. But that is a process that will take time,” he added.
Eleven tugboats were helped by several diggers which vacuumed up sand underneath at high tide brought on by a “supermoon” – a full moon which raises the water level due to its gravitational pull on the earth, canal services firm Leth Agencies said.
Berdowski said the front end of the boat still needs to be freed.
He said: “We have movement, which is good news. But I wouldn’t say it’s a piece of cake now.
“Don’t cheer too soon. The good news is that the stern is free but we saw that as the simplest part of the job.”
He added that the most difficult part of the operation was hauling the mammoth boat over the clay of the canal bank.
If the ship is freed in the next few days, clearing the backlog of ships would take at least 10 days, data firm Refinitiv said.
An official at Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd, the firm which owns the Ever Given, said the vessel’s bow had moved slightly, but warned the bottom of the ship was still touching the seafloor.
When high tide returns at 11:30am local time, crews will resume attempts to tow the ship into the middle of the waterway and toward the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south end of the canal.
About 15 per cent of world shipping traffic transits the Suez Canal – around 19,000 ships last year – which is a key source of foreign currency revenue for Egypt.
At least 369 vessels were waiting to transit the canal, including dozens of container ships, bulk carriers and oil and gas tankers.
Some ships had decided to reroute their cargoes around the Cape of Good Hope, adding about two weeks to journeys and extra fuel costs.
The ship, its captain, its crew and Egyptian officials who boarded the vessel in the canal are all under scrutiny, reports say.
Shoei Kisen has apologised for the accident and said they are making every effort to free the stricken boat.
Authorities in Egypt are probing the crash and said high winds were likely a factor.
But they are also looking at possible human error and mechanical failure.
Yiannis Sgouras, a Greek ship captain who has passed, said usually two local officials, known as pilots, come aboard to advise the navigation through the canal.
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Yet, it is the ship’s captain who has ultimate responsibility.
Capt. Sgouras, who has passed through the canal at least two dozen times, said: “Suez is difficult and still gives me the creeps.”
He added that during gusts of wind “you really have to keep her steady. If you accidentally turn one degree you can lose her.”