The Stuck Cargo Ship in the Suez Canal

It has been stuck since Tuesday.

Likely you have seen at least one news item on the cargo ship that ran aground in the Suez Canal on Tuesday. Check out this CNN story: "Suez Canal authorities need to remove up to 706,000 cubic feet of sand to free the Ever Given." These ships are really, really big. They dwarf the size of an aircraft carrier.

 

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This is a classic transportation disruption scenario. What at first seemed like a simple solution to get a few tugboats in to push or pull the ship out from being stuck has turned into a much more complex logistical operation. Check out the supply disruptions described in the article. 

If the ship is actually grounded, it can be a really big problem. These ships have a draft of between 51-54 feet, which is what the center channel is likely at. The "edges" are nowhere near that deep.

One other item from my military experience. Having served in armored divisions, getting tanks "unstuck" was always a drill that was practiced and actually experienced. An M1 tank can weigh up to 75 tons, much smaller than that of this stuck ship. However, the recovery issue of "suction" that applies to a tank stuck in wet mud may apply. It is like supergluing the tank to the ground, so it is not just the dead weight you are trying to pull but the added tension between the ground and the vehicle as well. Multiply that about 10,000 times with this ship and it is a really big problem. I would not be surprised if they "try" to unload some containers, but even that would be very difficult to accomplish with these vessels since they have no onboard cranes. 

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.