Human error may be behind ship blocking Suez Canal: authorities

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The massive container ship that is blocking the Suez Canal may have run aground because of human error, not a strong windstorm, Egyptian officials said this weekend.

Initial reports said the 1,300-foot, 200,000-ton Ever Given got wedged in the shipping channel because of high winds and a sandstorm that affected visibility.

But the head of the Suez Canal Authority now says weather conditions were “not the main reasons” for the ship’s grounding.

“There may have been technical or human errors,” the canal authority’s Chairman Osama Rabie told reporters Saturday, without giving more details, the BBC reported.

“All of these factors will become apparent in the investigation.”

Meanwhile, tug boats and dredgers continued working to push and pull the massive ship from the spot where it’s been wedged between the banks of the normally-busy canal since Tuesday.

At least 369 boats are lined up in a massive traffic jam waiting to pass through the canal, which handles up to 15 percent of world trade.

A mass of rock underneath the ship’s bow is making the effort difficult. Dredgers have shifted more than 950,000 cubic feet of sand and dug down nearly 60 feet, but the ship remains stuck.

Still, there are tiny signs of progress, the Suez Canal Authority said.

“The rudder was not moving and it is now moving, the propeller is working now, there was no water underneath the bow, and now there is water under it, and yesterday there was a 4-meter deviation in the bow and the stern,” Rabie told Egyptian state TV.

Video posted on Twitter showed tug boats honking their horns in celebration.

Authorities brought two more powerful tugboats in, bringing the total to 14 tugs working on moving the ship. The backup is costing the canal about $15 million daily.

The Egyptian government also ordered preparations to start offloading some of the ship’s 18,300 containers to lighten its load. That effort wouldn’t start until Monday.

It will require moving the containers either to another ship or possibly the canal bank. Special equipment, including a crane more than 200 feet high, would be needed and the process could take weeks, the BBC reported.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said Sunday that the blocked canal could also affect the movement of U.S. military vessels.

A Defense Department spokesperson told The Hill the longer the canal is blocked, the greater the concerns.

“The Suez Canal is an essential maritime choke point, and the longer passage is suspended, the more impact it will have to civilian and military transits,” said Navy spokeswoman Rebecca Rebarich.

Experts have warned that with the canal blocked, more ships are likely to try sail around Africa, raising their exposure to pirates, along with increased costs and shipping times.

“[I]f more and more ships are going along the coast of Africa because of this incident, security arrangements would need to be tightened” around areas where piracy is known to occur, especially the waters surrounding Somalia and Yemen, said Paul Sullivan, an international security expert and professor at the National Defense University in an interview with Voice of America.

With Post wires

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