Turkey offers Egypt help to open the Suez Canal passage

Ankara’s offer comes as the two countries have recently moved to repair diplomatic ties

The Turkish government has offered to help Cairo in its emergency operations to reopen the Suez Canal, after a massive container ship ran aground on Tuesday, blocking the major trade waterway ever since. 

Turkish Minister of Transport Adil Karaismailoglu said on Friday that Turkey was ready to help and dispatch emergency response vessel Nene Hatun, if Egypt requested it. 

“Our vessel Nene Hatun is among the special ships in the world that could undertake such big operations,” Turkish national news agency Anadolu quoted him as saying.

The Nene Hatun, which belongs to the interior ministry, has a bollard pull of 205 tons, a fire extinguisher that can pump up water as high as 70 meters, as well as a 100-metres deep underwater diving system, a pressure room, 15 scuba divers, labs and a small medical unit. 

The offer comes as Turkey and Egypt have recently sought to mend their ties, which have been deeply fractured since Ankara refused to recognize Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as the legitimate leader of the country, after he came to power following a coup that unseated democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Earlier this month, in an apparent attempt at rapprochement, senior Turkish officials, including the foreign and defense ministers, publicly called for an improvement in relations.

Turkey has also asked Egyptian opposition channels located in the country to adhere to the media code of conduct, and to tone down their criticism of the Sisi government because of the delicate ongoing negotiations between the two states.

Ever Given, the ship that blocked the passage

Ever Given, a megaship, one of the largest on earth, has been wedged across one of the world’s most important trade routes for two days, blocking hundreds of other boats and disrupting global supply chains.

Divers and a flotilla of tugboats are currently trying to free the cargo ship, the Ever Given, from one of the banks of the storied canal.

But one of the companies trying to help refloat the vessel, which ran aground at around 6.30pm GMT on Tuesday, said yesterday that it may not be dislodged for weeks.

At 400 meters long and 59 meters wide, the Ever Given is twice the size of Egypt’s Cairo tower, and just under half the size of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world.

A Japanese firm, Shoei Kisen Kaisha, owns the ship. On Thursday, it apologized for the massive delays caused by the blockage.

The Ever Green is currently being operated by a Taiwanese transport company called Evergreen Marine, based in Panama.

It is reportedly insured for up to $140m.

The giant vessel was built in 2018, and has the capacity for 20,000 20-foot shipping containers. It is worth approximately $170m.

Evergreen’s founder, Chang Yung-fa, opposed operating ships able to hold any more than 8,000 containers, according to The Telegraph. But after his death in 2016, his sons – the heirs to his shipping dynasty – decided to refocus the firm on running megaships like the Ever Given.

In 2019, Evergreen reportedly revealed plans to build and charter ships with capacity for up to 23,000 containers.

The boat set out from Yantian in China on 7 March, then stopped off for a day at the port of Tanjung Pelepas in Malaysia, before sailing to Suez Port in Egypt on 22 March.

It is currently estimated to arrive in Rotterdam on 31 March according to Vessel Finder, though that now seems unlikely.

The Ever Given may have turned into an unlikely wellspring for internet memes, but the incident could prove to be a disaster for an already stretched system of global supply, with at least 150 ships now reportedly waiting on either side of the “beached whale”.

Global oil prices increased by more than six percent on Wednesday, before falling slightly on Thursday.

It is unclear at this point exactly what the vessel is carrying, but shipping logistics experts told NBC that “basically anything you see in stores” could be affected by the incident, including potential delays to food, clothes and electronics.

“Every port in western Europe is going to feel this,” Leon Willems, a spokesman for Rotterdam Port, told Reuters.

An estimation by Lloyd’s List suggests that the Ever Given may be holding up cargo – travelling both up and down the canal – worth almost $10bn.

Thankfully, the ship’s 25-person all-Indian crew are all unharmed, according to the vessel’s owners.