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Sunday, April 4, 2021

Ship Evergiven salvage at Suez Canal - the Lunar help !!

I am interested in  Sea, ship, boats, cargo, transportation, logistics, insurance  and more – being a Marine Insurer – with so much being written on Suez Canal blockade by a containership – me too chipping in (albeit a different one – not a scholastic one !) 

First many articles  have appeared about a ship ‘Evergreen’ getting struck in Suez canal and the photos too depicted  the 400-metre long mega-ship with  'EVERGREEN' painted on the vessel,  the name of the ship is  'Ever Given',  operated by the Evergreen Marine Corp, a Taiwanese container transportation and shipping company.

Ever Given is a Golden-class container ship, one of the largest in the world. The ship is owned by Shoei Kisen Kaisha (a shipowning and leasing subsidiary of the large Japanese shipbuilding company Imabari Shipbuilding), and is time chartered and operated by container transportation and shipping company Evergreen Marine, headquartered in Luzhu District, Taoyuan City, Taiwan.  Ever Given is registered in Panama and its technical management is the responsibility of the German ship management company Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM). Truly international !!

On 23 March 2021, while traveling from Tanjung Pelepas in Malaysia to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the ship ran aground in the Suez Canal, blocking it. The ship remained in place for six days before salvage crews freed it on 29 March 2021.  .. .. that garnered global attention and concern.

Ever Given (IMO 9811000) is one of 13 container ships built to the Imabari 20000 design developed by Imabari Shipbuilding, 11 of which have been chartered by Evergreen Marine with names starting with Ever G—. The ship was laid down on 25 December 2015, launched on 9 May 2018 and completed on 25 September 2018. It is Evergreen's second ship to be named Ever Given; the first one (IMO 8320901) was built in 1986 and has since been broken up. With a length overall of 399.94 metres (1,312 ft 2 in),[3] Ever Given is one of the longest ships in service. The hull has a beam of 58.8 metres (192 ft 11 in) and its height from keel to main deck (hull depth) is 32.9 metres (107 ft 11 in  Ever Given has a gross tonnage of 220,940; net tonnage of 99,155; and deadweight tonnage of 199,629 tons at design draught. The ship's container capacity is 20,124 TEU. Massive indeed !! 

Ships are massive…. made of steel, fitted with  many machineries, carrying many a  crew, supplies, carries thousands of tonnes of cargo (containers and cargo inside here) -  but yet floats and sails, carrying cargo from one place to another – it is always a marvel.  To float there are the principles of Density and Buoyancy.   They have wide hull bottoms and have a massive draft beneath the water ensuring that they displace enough amount of water to remain afloat.  Archimedes better explained !

When the ship is in control and steered in the desired direction, the destination is reached but when it flounders, it runs aground, would be extremely difficult to be pulled back and might end up as a wreck.  It cannot be allowed to rest as it is either in the mouth of a harbour or even in a sea bed – it not only contains valuable cargo, machinery – its intrinsic value also would run into crores.  Once the floatation is lost, it is difficult to pull it back to waters – more so if it gets embedded in to sands and dunes.

Left uncared for, the strong waves would render it a wreck sooner.. it would no longer be a ship – the marine insurance terminology for this is ‘loss of specie’ becoming a Total loss.

Vessels which run aground or adrift or without working machinery are saved by acts of salvage.  Don’t be confused by the terminology, which has a different meaning in property insurance – which is ‘residual value’. Here salvage is rescue and those engaged for towing the vessel to safety are known as salvors.  The act of salvage is extremely difficult as it is rendered not on hard but many times in mid-sea.  The principles  of salvage and salvage law have evolved over many centuries. A fundamental concept is that the salvor should be encouraged by the prospect of an appropriate salvage award to intervene in any casualty situation to salve the ship, property and, in particular, to save life and prevent pollution. The salvor's right to a reward is based on natural equity.

Marine salvage is the process of rescuing a ship, its cargo, or other property from peril. Salvage encompasses rescue towing, refloating a sunken or grounded vessel, or patching or repairing a ship. Now in tune with the changing times, preventing pollution and damage to the Marine environment becomes the immediate priority when the vessel involved has substantial oil as cargo or in its holds as bunker fuel. 

"Salvors" are seamen and engineers who carry out salvage to vessels that are not owned by themselves, and who are not members of the vessel's original crew.  They are highly skilled and employ equipments including cranes, tugs, floating dry docks and more.  Often salvage is arranged on ‘No Cure No Pay’ basis and the form that is universally in vogue is ‘Lloyd’s Form of Salvage agreement’ known as LOF form – LOF 2000 [the suffix would mean the year of the edition being used].   In return for salvage  assistance rendered, the Salvors are entitled to proportion of the saved value depending upon the difficulty and other parameters.    The concept of no payment when no recovery is also changing reflecting the public interest in the operation of saving the subject matter as also preventing damage to the environment.  

There is an association for the professional salvors known as - International Salvage Union (ISU).  Its members  provide essential services for the world's maritime and insurance communities. Members are engaged in marine casualty response, pollution defence, wreck removal, cargo recovery, towage and related activities.

Sec 65 of the Marine Insurance Act 1963 defines Salvage charges :

(1) Subject to any express provision in the policy, salvage charges incurred in preventing a loss by perils insured against may be recovered as a loss by those perils. 

(2) "Salvage charges" means the charges recoverable under maritime law by a salvor independently of contract. They do not include the expenses of services in the nature of salvage rendered by the assured or his agents, or any person employed for hire by them, for the purpose of averting a peril insured against. Such expenses, where properly incurred, may be recovered as particular charges or as a general average loss, according to the circumstances under which they were incurred.

I always try to understand smaller things and bigger things in part – that way Fishing trawlers replicate ships in many aspects. In my experience in Kakinada, (way back in 1994 or 1995 !)  a fishing trawler insured with us   was reported to have run aground in Hope island off Kakinada. Accompanying the surveyor and the owner, We ventured into the sea in another fishing trawler, travelling around 45 minutes, reached the island, walked to the other shore - could see the fishing boat crouched on the sand. The salvage efforts were simple – to remove the sand from the bottom of the boat manually (sounds simple but very difficult to remove wet sand embedded under the weight of the boat against rough waves) dig on the sides, put wooden logs, pull it back to the sea by ropes tethered to another fishing boat, also push the boat manually. If it is cargo vessel, cargo load could be removed to lighten it.  Here they attempted to break and dismantle the engine from its cabin bed first.  This was done more to lighten the boat ; pulling a bare hull from sand to water is relatively easier. 

The value at risk (price of the boat) was around 10 lakhs (big money those days) – the poor fisherman owner had little money and could mobilise much little at difficult times – salvor was Dharmadi Apparao (or was it Dharmadi Satyam !) [there were no other interests ! involved] ~ the salvors had good experience and were famous having retrieved many such stranded vessels.  The process appeared simple – mobilise some labour, reach the place,   dig the sand under the belly of the boat, push it manually and try to pull the boat to waters by other boats.  A couple of days later came the information that ‘salvage efforts had failed and the boat had broken’ – the photos revealed only a few large planks and no trace of what was once a fishing trawler !!   If none of us had seen it earlier (with our eyes) – perhaps the entire episode of running ground and then reduced to planks would have remained a story and we would have doubted the innocent fisherman of creating a claim story after intentionally breaking the boat for a TL claim.

A vessel on sea would yaw, pitch and roll but when aground, life is miserable.  Waves keep lashing on one side while one side is on the sand – and if refloating is not successful within a short time, the logs start giving up, eventually exposing the keel and news that there was once a ship !  .. two fishing boats had been hired and stood anchored,  but were not used in pulling, when enquired – the salvor after a pause said – they would be used in high tide when ebb is flowing – they predicted the time too ..

This episode ran in my mind when I read this article in titled – ‘How 'Worm Moon' helped free the stuck ship Ever Given in the Suez Canal’. ~ wonder what could be Moon connection to the ship stranded in Suez !

It took a little help from the full moon to free the massive Ever Given cargo ship from its perch stranded in the Suez Canal. For nearly a week, the boat debacle took the internet by storm: a 1,300-foot-long (400 meters) container ship had gotten wedged into a key trading passageway, blocking all traffic. A digger, dwarfed by the massive boat, came to scratch away at the canal's sides, an allegory of every quixotic attempt we make to manage the behemoth crashes in our own lives.

Even from space, on the International Space Station and 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the fray, all eyes turned to the Ever Given. Russian Cosmonaut Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, who has been living and working in the orbiting laboratory since October, even shared images snapped from his orbital vantage point of the now-notorious Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal.  "One of the most discussed news is the incident in the #SuezCanal," Kud-Sverchkov wrote. "One of the world's largest container ships #EverGiven has blocked one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. Specialists are making every effort to restore shipping. You can see it now from the @SpaceStation." Satellites also monitored the situation, naturally.

                 The European Space Agency released images from its Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite comparing typical Suez Canal traffic with the situation on Thursday (March 25), when a traffic jam had built up behind the splayed ship. According to the Associated Press, it may take as long as 10 days for the backlog to clear. Meanwhile, satellites operated by the U.S. company Maxar watched as rescue efforts came to fruition, with both WorldView-2 and GeoEye-1 satellites from the company offering views of the Ever Given and its surrounding tugboats in the late morning of  Mar 29. 

But the view of those tugboats had a helping hand from some celestial mechanics. After all, the Suez Canal, like so many other bodies of water, rises and falls with the tides, a side effect of Earth's relationship with our cosmic neighbours. Tides are most extreme when the Earth aligns with both the sun and the moon, the two objects that exert the strongest gravitational pull on our planet. (Because water moves most easily in response to this pull, the tides are the most obvious response to this gravitational tugging.) When there's a full moon or moon is in its new phase, its gravitational pull adds onto that of the sun, resulting in more dramatic high and low tides, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

And the moon was full on Sunday (March 28). Even better for the stranded ship, as the moon was simultaneously relatively close to Earth in its orbit; it will reach the closest point, called perigee, on Tuesday (March 30). Perigee can also accentuate the extreme tides caused by full and new moons, according to NOAA.  Those factors mean that the moon really lined up to give the Ever Given a much-needed boost. According to the New York Times, the Suez Canal may have seen water levels about 18 inches (46 centimeters) higher than usual.

"We were helped enormously by the strong falling tide we had this afternoon," Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, the salvage firm charged with freeing the Ever Given, told The Associated Press. "In effect, you have the forces of nature pushing hard with you, and they pushed harder than the two sea tugs could pull."  and now, thanks to the moon, the infamous Ever Given is on the go again.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Collated from various sources including BBC, MailOnline – moon’s help article from  : 


  1. Thanks , very interesting. High tide on 28th March.
    Once all done, then the lawyers/courts will be battling on the claims/general average issues.

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