A container ship navigates Egypt's Suez Canal this week after the Ever Given cargo vessel was dislodged from its banks. The megaship, which was stuck for nearly a week, caused a 425-ship traffic jam to the north and south. Tarek Wajeh / AFP
A container ship navigates Egypt's Suez Canal this week after the Ever Given cargo vessel was dislodged from its banks. The megaship, which was stuck for nearly a week, caused a 425-ship traffic jam to the north and south. Tarek Wajeh / AFP

Ever Given’s black box will tell all

By Duncan Guy Time of article published Apr 3, 2021

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Durban - Nick Sloane, salvage master of the Costa Concordia operation in 2013 says the black box will tell what happened when the Ever Given ran aground in the Suez Canal.

Ships have black boxes, similar to those in aircraft, from which information can be extracted to establish what went wrong in an accident.

“There’s a black box giving all the courses and voice recordings on the bridge. They will find out what happened,” Nick Sloane, who was salvage master of the Costa Concordia off Italy’s Giglio island eight years ago, said.

Sloane, who grew up in Durban and attended Kearsney College, was speaking from Cape Town where he is based. He said he was not directly involved in the recovery of the MV Ever Given, but kept a close watch on the operation remotely. Sloane is a director at Resolve Marine Group, one of the world’s leading maritime salvage companies.

“I think they did very well. It is fortunate that it coincided with spring tides.”

Sloane said he had been involved in three salvage operations in the Suez Canal in the past 10 years.

“Tugs and dredgers (used to get the Ever Given floating again) are always the best way (to do the job).”

He believes human error would have played a part in the accident.

He said there was a speed limit of eight or nine knots in the canal, but it appeared the ship was travelling at 13.5 knots.

The Ever Given, reported as being the length of four football fields, should be at no risk travelling through the narrow canal despite its size.

“However, in a narrow stretch of water it is always a risk to run such a huge ship, especially if you have some mechanical failure or blackout.”

Sloane explained of the 20 000 containers on board the Ever Given could not have been offloaded at the site of the accident, in the desert beside the canal.

“For ships this big there are only five or six ports in Europe with cranes that can reach them. Trying to get the cargo off in the desert and canal would not have been possible. Where would you put the cargo?”

He went on to say that ships this size can suck the water around them as they move.

“In a canal if they go too close to one side it can cause the water to become shallower.

“This canal banking effect can suck you towards the side. To break that, you use the rudder but that can cause the ship to shoot across the canal,” he said.

“That looks like what happened. Verification will come from the black box. I am sure there was human error.”

Email and WhatsApp attempts to get information from Portnet of the possible effect the blockage would have on South African ports were unsuccessful.

The Independent on Saturday

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