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The tide, how the tugboat helped release the big ship

Eslam Negm is no stranger to feeling chaos on the Suez Canal.

As a sailor on the rescue tug Baraka 1 (Baraka 1), the Egyptians often face fires, evacuation and loading issues on 50 or so cargo ships that cross the canal every day.

But when Nagum received a call from his manager last week asking him to help strand a stranded container ship, he said that the photos did not prepare him for the imminent catastrophe.

When the huge ship turned sideways near the southern end of the canal early on March 23, it was transported from China to the Netherlands, carrying 20,000 containers. The bow of the bow lives on the sandy east wall of the canal, and the stern rests on the boat. Its west wall.

The canal was blocked, and a large part of the global traffic was supported behind it.

Earlier reports pointed out that poor visibility should be attributed to strong winds and sandstorms, and now the cause has become the subject of a long and high-profile investigation.

But for Negm and hundreds of other workers, the excellent rescue of the Ever Given cargo ship was a job, and it was an unforgettable job. In a series of interviews with NBC News, he and other maritime workers described a large-scale international operation that relied on hard work, new technology and eventually the moon to release ships. When the world marveled at the skyscraper-sized ships and was troubled by the backlog of ships, it was local workers, engineers and tugboat captains who had toiled through sleepless nights and hungry days to restore transportation on the canal.

This is because Suez is not only the cornerstone of national pride and an important international trade route, but also an important source of income and job security for thousands of Egyptians.

32-year-old Negm said: “We live on that.”

Sleepless night on the Suez River

With the initial rescue work in trouble, the Egyptians joined the rescue team together with the international rescue team, and they brought the expertise and capabilities needed to evacuate the 220,000-ton ship.

The Suez Canal Authority issued an order that a Dutch company specializing in salvage operations served as the project manager, directing the fleet of tugboats, dredgers and excavators.

Negm and hundreds of people involved in the rescue work around the clock and are swimming upstream in freezing conditions. As a lifeline for the stalled tanker, the Baraka tug is connected to the bow by a cable.

As Ever Ever was determined not to move, the frustration of its 20 crew members was high.

The chief technician of the tugboat, 36-year-old Mahmoud Shalabi, said: “During the long rescue, it was very emotional.”

In order to free the stuck bow of the ship, the dredger works around the clock to remove at least 27,000 metric tons of sand to a depth of 60 feet.

For those who work hard in the huge shadow of Ever Given, this job is not only difficult, but also dangerous.

Aly Awamy, the mechanic of Mashhour’s boat dredging, said: “We were working under a 10-story building that might collapse.”

When Shalabi, a technician in Baraka, raised his head and looked at the wedge-shaped tanker, he recalled that the ship seemed to be driven by a car and suddenly “suddenly drove to the sidewalk.”

On the morning of March 24, mechanical engineer Bahaa Ramadan walked from his high village on the west bank of the canal to his office in Ismailia from the second day of the initial mooring on the morning of March 24, when he first discovered the mooring here. Unusual sight on a ship. Fully” sideways.

Every day when he came, he watched from the roof of the office, unobstructed and unobstructed. He said that the news swallowed the surrounding countryside. Since Egypt closed the canal during the 1967 war, the locals have not talked about the canal. At that time, Egypt and other Arab countries suffered a disastrous defeat by neighboring Israel.

In Cairo, Mohamed el Gamel sent crazy WhatsApp messages at 5 am. Gamel, the chief executive of Maridive, an Egyptian marine and oil services company, is organizing the arrival of a tugboat that is stationed in the Gulf of Mexico, a few hours from the crisis point. canal.

After initially rejecting Maridive’s help, once the canal authorities realized the scale of the task at hand, they asked for a backup. The company’s tug was eventually placed at the other end of Baraka 1 to help pull out the stern.

‘Absolute miracle’

The current crisis is not only a topic of Egypt’s 100 million residents, but also a topic in many parts of the world.

With increasing pressure, maritime traffic congestion results in at least $9 billion in trade every day, and forces an increasing backlog of ships carrying oil, consumer goods and livestock.

By this weekend, rescue work has become an international affair. The Danish maritime operator Svitzer sent two tugboats to sail from the station in Port Said for 10 hours, joining the growing fleet around this huge cargo ship.

The company’s chief executive Kaspar Friis Nilaus said: “This is a huge team effort, and canal officials need to coordinate the entire process.”

In the end it seems possible to make progress.

The ship has taken the first step since it was grounded on Friday evening, but weather conditions have discouraged hopes for a breakthrough, and the bow has always been stuck in sand and mud.

Maridive Chairman Shahira Zeid said: “Adrenaline lasted for several hours.”

Negum said that a “new generation” Dutch tugboat arrived at the scene on Sunday. Its towing power was twice that of Barakah and played an important role in the ultimate liberation of the ship.

“The arrival of the last batch is very, very big. This is necessary.” Nilaus said.

Then, at dawn on Monday, March 29, six days later, the elements aligned.

For all human labor and modern equipment, rescue work ultimately depends on an uncontrollable force: the tide.

“Speaking of doing this, we are still relying on the same sailing technology. Andrew Kinsey, Allianz’s maritime risk consultant, said that it was the moon and lunar tide that helped the ship float.

Negrim stared at the bridge of the tugboat he had been staying for a week. With the beginning of eternal discipline, Negrim could hardly believe his eyes.

Part of it resurfaced in the morning, and the ship was finally released at around 3 pm local time, allowing the canal to reopen later that night.

Initially, due to false rumors on Egyptian social media that canal workers deliberately shut down important trade routes and were condemned, the Suez rescuers were quickly praised as heroes by the local media and their government.

After 6 days of salvage work, the crew of the Baraka 1 tugboat finally took a selfie, and finally the troubled Ever Given disappeared.Mahmoud Shalabi

Office worker Ramadan said that many villagers think that rescue is an “absolute miracle” because they violated logic when they saw the boat got stuck.

The aria usually reserved for football stadiums swept cafes and outdoor venues, but for Negum, it was his mother who was crying on the phone because she called to congratulate him, and it was all worth it.

He said: “She knows how difficult this problem is because she also works in Suez.”

‘Balance technology’

As this happiness begins to fade, researchers have many questions to answer, including the cause of the accident and who will compensate for the damage.

After the ship was grounded initially due to severe sandstorms and strong winds, the chairman of the Canal Authority Rabbi said on Sunday that “technical or human error” may also have caused the grounding of the ship.

Risk consultant and former captain Kinsey, who has traveled dozens of times on the canal, said that in such a crisis, there is rarely a single cause, but a series of events or what sailors call the “wrong chain”. He said that when a ship is so wide, the “delicate balancing act” between the captain and the Egyptian canal pilot will produce very little error.

In order to cross the canal, which is an important corridor between Europe and Asia, helping to shorten the voyage and speed up trade, ships must pay management fees to the authorities and seek the help of specialized pilots who can help them pass through the narrow Navigate in the waterway.

The demand for cigarette cartons by canal workers is widespread and will exacerbate tensions. These legends are the many sailors who have now retired from the Egyptian navy.

“They don’t ask for one or two cartons. They count on their own number, such as 12 or 20 cartons.” said Suraj Joshi, a former merchant navy soldier.

In the coming months, the pilot is likely to be the focus of the investigation, but other former sailors and canal officials also agree that the ultimate responsibility for navigating the canal lies with the captain.

When the Egyptian authorities led an investigation to analyze the ship’s black box, the ship’s fate was managed by the so-called “international conglomerate” of John Konrad, who runs the maritime news website gCaptain, and many parties are ready to criticize and Blame. The battle for maritime compensation may continue for several years.

This is a transcontinental matter, because the shipowner is Japanese, the operator is German, the insurance company is British, the charter is Taiwanese, the canal pilot is Egyptian, and the ship itself is marked with the Panamanian flag .

“This was done deliberately,” said former captain Conrad. “Because no one was skinning during the game except for the captain and crew.”

A spokesperson for the ship’s technical operator Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement told NBC News that the preliminary investigation “has ruled out any mechanical or engine failures on board.”

Both the Suez Canal Authority and Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the company that owns the ship, declined to comment on the ongoing investigation. Evergreen Line, the ship’s chartering company, did not respond to a request for comment.

Canal officials and experts said that the answer may lie in the ship’s black box, the voyage data recorder.

Rabbi, chairman of the Canal Authority, told Egyptian television on Thursday that the captain had not yet handed over the box to the investigator, presumably because he was hiring a lawyer to represent him.

At the same time, the ship may be free, but has not yet left the canal.

Divers are inspecting the Ever Ever to determine if it is waiting indefinitely in the Great Bitter Lake until it finally resumes sailing.

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