A LONE JCB was struggling to free the stuck Suez ship yesterday — as it costs the world £7billion a day in lost trade.
Two digger drivers were taking it in turns to claw sand and rock from the beached prow of the 1,312ft-long Ever Given vessel.
Experts warned the 200,000 tonne ship may take weeks to shift — sparking a trade crisis affecting “everything you see in the shops”.
Oil prices rose further yesterday as it emerged the logjam of 150 vessels in Egypt’s Suez Canal is valued at £30billion-plus.
They are carrying enormous quantities of oil and gas, cars, food, furniture, clothes and electronics, plus Covid vaccine and PPE.
Nine tug boats were also battling to pull free the ship, which has been wedged tight since Tuesday.
But, in another blow, work stopped early yesterday because of low tide.
A source said: “The two digger drivers are working as hard and as fast as they can to free the ship. They know what is at stake.”
Dutch salvage experts drafted in warned of lengthy delays if they are forced to unload containers 100ft-high on the deck.
Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, said: “We can’t exclude it might take weeks, depending on the situation. It is like an enormous beached whale.”
Further delays may force firms to re-route vessels around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, adding 14 days and 5,000 nautical miles to the journey.
There was also confusion over what caused the disaster. Initial claims that the ship suffered a black-out shortly before the crash were denied yesterday.
Some reports said the three-year-old, state-of-the-art ship was blown off course by a 30mph wind.
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German sources revealed it was involved in a crash at Hamburg in 2019, when it blew off course and wrote off a moored ferry.
Japanese owners Shoei Kisen said yesterday it was “extremely sorry for the tremendous worry” caused.
The UK Government said British experts were ready to help if required.
The Suez Canal is the quickest sea route between Asia and Europe and is one of the world’s most heavily used shipping lanes.
On average 50 vessels per day pass along the canal, although at times the number can be much higher.
The canal is 120 miles long, 672ft wide and 78ft deep meaning it can handle the world’s biggest ships, which take around 11 hours to pass through.
Ships have been grounded in the canal before and in 2017 a Japanese ship became stuck but was re-floated within hours.
The first canal was dug under the reign of Senausret III, Pharaoh of Egypt, who reigned from 1887-1849BC.
A new artificial waterway was planned by French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps, which took 10 years to complete and opened in November 1869.
Egypt nationalised the canal in 1956, prompting an invasion by shareholders Britain and France along with Israel.
The Suez Crisis ended only after Egypt sank 40 ships in the canal and the United States, Soviet Union and United Nations intervened, forcing Britain, France and Israel to withdraw.
The state-owned Suez Canal Authority was established in July 1956 and runs the waterway.
In 2015 Egypt extended the Suez Canal providing ships with a 22 mile channel parallel channel, allowing more vessels to use it.
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