At least 16 Greek-owned merchant ships are among the more than 320 stuck waiting on the Suez canal after a giant container vessel was grounded Tuesday, blocking the passage, Shipping Minister Ioannis Plakiotakis said Sunday.
The Shipping and Island Policy and Foreign Affairs Ministries had informed Egypt early on that it was ready to help by either sending tow ships or drilling equipment to help unstuck the containership “Ever Given.”
“We wented to state that we are available and ready to help both in towing and dredging,” Plakiotakis said, adding that the incident creates a “huge problem.”
“Over 10% of global trade moves through the Suez canal,” he said.
Even more ships are joined the queue while others have been reditrected by their owners to the much longer Cape route, around southern Africa.
Egypt has thanked Greece for its offer, although it has not, so far, taken up on it.
The Associated Press reported Saturday afternoon that two additional tugboats sped Sunday to Suez Canal to aid efforts to free Ever Given.
The Dutch-flagged Alp Guard and the Italian-flagged Carlo Magno, called in to help tugboats already there, reached the Red Sea near the city of Suez early Sunday, satellite data from MarineTraffic.com showed. The tugboats will nudge the 400-meter-long (quarter-mile-long) Ever Given as dredgers continue to vacuum up sand from underneath the vessel and mud caked to its port side.
Pilots have expressed hope that it will not be necessary to start offloading the stuck ship, because the procedure would add days to the delay.
The Ever Given is wedged about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) north of the canal’s Red Sea entrance near the city of Suez.
The world’s biggest shipping company, Denmark’s A.P. Moller-Maersk, warned its customers that it would take anywhere from three to six days to clear the backlog of vessels at the canal.
“According to initial estimates, the grounding of the giant container ship is creating a 2-week delay in arrivals in Piraeus and other Mediterranean ports and 3-4 weeks extra on final deliveries of goods,” said Vassilis Korkidis, President of the Piraeus Chamber of Commerce and Industry.