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Is that ship still stuck? (istheshipstillstuck.com)
1453 points by ColinWright on March 25, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 1237 comments

I don't think people are giving enough credit to how stuck the ship is.

Look at some of the photos of the front of it. Look at how far out of the water it is sitting. The ship might look like that if it were totally empty, but not when it is full of containers like this.

Some people saying: just drag it off of the sand. Okay! And what happens when that causes you to rip a hole into the hull of the ship? Now it's really stuck.

Some people have suggested unloading the ship. I don't think you realize the infrastructure required to unload a ship. You're basically asking to build a port in the middle of the egyptian desert. That isn't going to happen.

It's really stuck. It's probably going to take a couple of weeks to get it unstuck.

> Some people have suggested unloading the ship. I don't think you realize the infrastructure required to unload a ship.

It seems, though, that a partial unloading is being considered by a professional in the field according to quotes in an article in The Guardian [1]:

However, Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, a specialist dredging company that has sent a crew to the scene, said data so far suggested “it is not really possible to pull it loose” and that the ship may need to be unloaded. “We can’t exclude it might take weeks, depending on the situation,” Berdowski told Dutch television.

He said the ship’s bow and stern had been lifted up against either side of the canal. “It’s like an enormous beached whale. It’s an enormous weight on the sand. We might have to work with a combination of reducing the weight by removing containers, oil and water from the ship, tugboats and dredging of sand.”

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/25/suez-canal-blo...

Perhaps the classic beached whale clearing technique [0] would work.

[0] https://youtu.be/V6CLumsir34

Amazing reporting, highly enjoyed the narrative.

Yes let's blow up a whale, beached as. What could possibly go wrong? Remains to be seen.

This pun deserves all the upvotes it can get.

Upvoted you, too — I would have skimmed right by the (great) pun had I not noticed your comment.

Just handed out the updoots left right and sideways myself, because my points on this video comment just hit the triple digits (!!!). What a time to be alive.

That's actually the same ballpark as mine; thanks again for sharing it, I'm sure it'll be one of my all time favourites as the years go by.

Please don't do this here.

That's a pretty cheeky comment: You've got one karma and just created the account; GP has been around for awhile.

Appeal to authority based on points.

And your appeal is to what, exactly? Answer: It's to the "authority" of an opinion offered by an unidentified newcomer, with no indication why the rest of us shouldn't dismiss the opinion as unhelpful noise.

In contrast, points and longevity serve as a rough, very-democratic measure of a poster's cumulative contributions to the community here, and thus (indirectly) of how well the poster has grokked the local cultural norms. That, in turn, gives readers useful information about the weight that they might wish to consider giving to the view(s) expressed by the poster.

(Apropos of which: I see that you still have a total of -1 points for the all of five days that your account has been active.)

Please don't do this here.

Wow, thanks; I was wondering if anyone would notice - there was one or two a while later, and I was happy someone got it.

Then came back just then after a few busy days and had to do a massive double take at the number of upvotes; I probably shouldn't discuss the actual number, but it's my most upvoted reply ever - there must be a lot more punsters here! :)

I used the reference to the NZ "Beached As" due to its brilliance, if you haven't seen it it's a silly treat especially if you love the accent.

And again I greatly enjoyed that sardonic tone of the original video, which I saved for future repeats.

I don't have to click that to know what it is.

If you haven't seen it, this is a remastered version and much better than the ones I remember watching ~20 years ago.

I got my Wikipedia chops by writing the article about that video. Got the Oddball Barnstar.

holy crap amazing. Why doesn't news editorialize like this anymore like this reporter did at the end? Simple, obvious, and stated fairly. You don't always need to talk to the guy who thought the whale hailstorm was still a good idea.

Old school journalism? That kind of reporting takes too long — two minutes until the event is shown — to lay out the facts in a responsible way... giving everyone a clear idea of the initial problem, the proposed solution, and what the proposed solution was supposed to accomplish.

Aside from taking too long, it fails to manipulate the audience by giving them a prepackaged take that aligns with the viewers' preconcieved bias, enrages the opposition, and generates audience affinity with the news outlet. Where's the profit in that?

I'm a little confused by this take: editorializing doesn't happen anymore, which is sad. It doesn't happen anymore because editorializing occurs, which is good, because editorializing is bad?

The goal of news media is not to provide a useful information stream, but to gather repeat views (follow the money).

The news barons of the past foolishly conflated the two, or at least assumed the first was optimal at producing the second.

Today, we’ve learned better — there are far more effective strategies available, largely by exploiting our natural search for drama.

That is, the reporting was good at its goal of good reporting; but this was not the correct goal to have.

Fits into a tik-tok limit of 3 minutes.

Journalism, a lost art.

Thank you. I haven’t laughed that hard since the start of the pandemic.

Thank you, it's also a time capsule preserving the "hw" pronunciation of whale. (Which seems to be slowly disappearing.)

Weirdly my elementary-school-age kids were taught in kindergarten that "wh" is a separate sound from "w", and that the received pronunciation is "hw".

That's in Seattle, where al of nobody does the "hw" thing.

So that was a surprise to find in their little takehome pages. I'm guessing those handouts were first xerox'd 40 years ago...

> No respectable seagull would attempt to taggle[?] [the particles of dead whale] anyway.


I cried, fantastic.

Instead of listing possible technologies and solutions to the problem of re-floating the container ship, why not make an ordered list of worst possible outcomes and approach the problem from the least-worst?

I'll start:

1. pull the ship out of the sand by force with a fleet of tugs which tears a hole in the ship causing an angle of loll and to subsequently keel over.

Ok, I know it sounds crazy. But what if they put a correctly sized explosive(s) deep enough below and along the spine to blow and then fill the area with water, reducing the rheological load? We're talking about 100 feet underneath the canal bed, and do it with a shaped charge that'll be more optimal for the task. Just thinking about fast <1 week methods.

I was wondering if it is sand, can it be liquefied using vibration around the hull to help loosen it? Something like what they use to vibrate concrete while pouring it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tV4sTbpa7Hc

If they can dig a tunnel along the boat a 100 feet deep, that would probably be enough to set it free. No need for a boatload of C4 then.

Elon Musk probably has a team working on it.

How do you stop the ship from collapsing onto the boring device?

So... you want to be the one responsible if it doesn't go as planned? Further blocking the canal, let alone damages to the ship and cargo on board.

Theres a reason wacky, dangerous ideas happen in the movies and not real life. The consequences of trying to look clever and failing are pretty severe.

Well, I'm not trying to look clever. I'm trying to figure out how the hell this can be taken care of in less than a week.

Works in cartoons!

I say we attach a giant helium balloon!

Or, use airships to unload the containers (as choppers can't lift enough weight)...

Can we just drop some anvils while we are at it? Why ask Tesla to help when ACME has never let us down?

Not just a professional in the field, he works for the company that got the assignment.

This is a really good example of how terrible people are at judging scale. Some numbers getting thrown around downthread say there's something to the tune of 10,000 40ft containers. To give a bit of a sense of perspective, that's like trying to clear out some 200 football fields worth of semi-trucks, except they are stacked, packed full of stuff, and have no gas or wheels. And all of them are perched atop a ship that is twice as tall and there's no suitable cranes or similar equipment anywhere near the vicinity.

If you ever seen a truck up close, you probably have an idea how tricky it is to maneuver even a single functional one on open flat ground. I can't even begin to imagine what it would take to move off even a fraction of 10,000 equivalents of bricks of the size of trucks, let alone budge the massive ship off of the sand banks.

For moving containers off the best bet would probably be heavy lift choppers, the ship is large enough you could have several working on it at once and then just drop them off nearby to be loaded onto barges or something. A huge undertaking but it any weight taken off the Evergreen is less digging they have to do and the time is so expensive.

Also it's less middle of nowhere there's a pretty large airbase nearby it looks like from Google Maps and a second smaller airport south of where Evergreen got stuck so there's plenty of support near.


Like the OP said, folks really aren't understanding the scale of this problem.. If they manage to do a single crate per minute, that's still just under seven days to do them all.

An empty forty foot shipping container on its own weighs about four tons and their max supported weight is 33.5 tons, so the problem is somewhere in between for every single container. A Mi-26 helicopter, a "heavy transport helicopter" can only lift 14.5 tons, so there will be crates that can't be lifted.

Even if it was possible, and ignoring the logistical issues, you can't ignore the safety issues. Doing it quickly across seven days is going to lead to human and equipment failure, and somebody's bound to get hurt or killed. Considering how many eyes are on this right now, what do you think is going to happen the first time someone dies?

And one per minute is wildly optimistic. I guess it would be more like 20 minutes per container, which will result in a year of offloading 24/7, which is also impossible due to low resource time of helicopter engines and airframe in general (and pilot stress too).

From my experience working with helicopters in the military, I think that is wildly optimistic. Probably closer to 60-240 minutes to get each container even 100m by helicopter, with severe limits to parallel operations either in the air, or on the ground/water nearby.

Yeah, and it sounds like they can't fly that long without parts failure. It's hard to find thorough information on how long heavy lift helicopters can run for, but a new CH-54K only has an 88.6% reliability rate for missions lasting only 2.25 hours. Shit's looking bad for the helicopter idea.

  However, the current estimate for mission reliability is still below the required threshold (i.e., minimally acceptable) requirement. The program office reported in November 2020 that the helicopter demonstrated an 84.5 percent reliability rate, which is short of the program’s threshold requirement and below where the program office expected the reliability to be at this point in development.15 The program office projects that the helicopter should reach mission reliability of 88.6 percent after operational testing.16 According to program officials, the main causes of the reliability shortfalls have been technical issues identified during developmental testing. For example, the reliability of the main gearbox has been one of the main factors affecting the helicopter’s overall mission reliability metric.17 As mentioned, the program office has mitigation plans in place to address many of those technical issues, but has not yet demonstrated the required level of overall helicopter mission reliability.
Source: https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-21-208.pdf (p13/14)

Uh, that's worse than I expected. The Egyptian Air Force has some Mil Mi-6, but their max slung load seems to be 8 tons according to Wikipedia.

Just use 4 helicopters per container.

> Considering how many eyes are on this right now, what do you think is going to happen the first time someone dies?

Considering how many goods and how much money is being blocked up by this the response may be loud from come parties but I doubt governments will care enough to stop it.

Some estimates I saw put the estimate at 10 billion dollars of goods being held up by the jammed ship and the costs of delays caused by sailing around the Cape instead will probably put a multiple on to that number before this is all over. There are construction projects in that corner of the globe worth far less that kill far more than just a few people but that hasn't really slowed them down much has it?

From a system design perspective, it's kind of nuts that the entire planet has only one single canal connecting two major bodies of water, and it's in a country with a, shall we say, precarious government. Surely such a single point of failure is a massive risk. Granted, geography doesn't leave us many choices, but could we at least build another, parallel canal to it?

There is another alternative: going around the southern tip of Africa. While this adds a couple weeks to trip time it also saves the massive Suez Canal transit tolls.

And remember the Suez Canal was closed for 8 years after the 1967 Israel/Egypt war. https://thegamming.org/2014/08/31/how-the-closure-of-the-sue...

Yeah and I'm under the impression that the fees are balanced so that it costs roughly the same amount to take either route. Ships only choose Suez because it's faster.

The Suez is at basically the one point it makes sense to build it. The next closest is off the Gulf of Aqaba and that's right on the border of Egypt and Israel. It really doesn't make sense for Egypt to go through the trouble of cutting a second one on the one in a million shot a ship gets stuck like this. The usual answer is just make sure they don't get stuck rather than spend the billions of dollars cutting a second canal would cost. Even if Egypt was somehow charged the losses for this screw up that probably wouldn't be enough to make it worth cutting a second backup canal.

There are actually 3 separate single-points-of-failure when you ship around the world.

Suez Canal

Panama Canal

Straight of Gibraltar- I think

When it was built, the notion that the land around it wouldn't be a colonial possession seemed unlikely.

The difference would be in the hyper-visibility of the deaths.

To show what I mean, compare the level of reporting and political backlash from [1], involving two construction workers against [2], involving 11 other deaths, that were only revealed after an audit. Visibility matters. I don't think it's unfair to say that if any deaths happen here that there would be far more global visibility than [1].

And besides, it's a silly armchair idea that doesn't make any sense whatsoever after ten minutes of scrutiny.

[1] https://www.globalconstructionreview.com/news/rio-cycle-path... [2] https://www.globalconstructionreview.com/news/rio-olympic-de...

As for the weight per container issue, I would expect the heavier container to be further down in the stack, for centre of gravity considerations, e.g. you should still be able to get a significant part of the load off the ship.

The objective is to lighten the ship. Moving the light containers isn’t optimal.

Sure, but removing two light containers is easier and more useful than failing to remove one heavy one.

This also assumes good weather. Part of what caused the ship to run aground was high winds. I imagine that any winds high enough to cause that would also make it impossible to use the helicopters. How often are the winds in that area that high in that area?

If you can get 10% of the weight down in a week, that is still better than not having the 10% gone. If you can do the helicopter offloading without blocking any other progress, then why not do it immediately?

Have a look at my other post in a sister thread.. the reliability of heavy lift helicopters is... garbage.

Sounds like efforts are going into offloading fuel and water tanks while they continue to dig up sand.

In an optimal attack on the problem I think you would be doing all of these; water, fuel and cargo would all be unloaded simultaneously.

Losing a few percent of weight in cargo is worth it.

But in real life these things aren't optimal ;)

The people that freed the ship yesterday were apparently not bad at all at estimating scale.

"For moving containers off the best bet would probably be heavy lift choppers, the ship is large enough you could have several working on it at once a"

I thought about this. I don't think a chopper can lift the container. Depending on the size of the containers, even the biggest chopper might not be enough https://www.businessinsider.com/russia-mi-26-helicopter-llft...

Get the ship moving again, I think if you pull too hard, it may fall apart. There is no infrastructure to unload it.

Gut feeling: Mount a crane on a ship and start unloading it to a smaller ship.

There's the crane lifting a crane lifting a crane method. [0]

Though I suspect another problem would be getting another ship large enough for all those cranes and strong enough to support all the weight close enough to the ship without them damaging each other by knocking into each other from waves and weight movement.

I also forgot about the matter of transporting those giant cranes onto the site. That itself would probably take weeks.


"Though I suspect another problem would be getting another ship large enough for all those cranes and strong enough to support all the weight close enough to the ship without them damaging each other by knocking into each other from waves and weight movement."

I don't thinks this is your concern. Desperate times, desperate measures. Likely you would fix/attach the crane ship to the container ship. I am sure they are willing to salvage two ships at this time. The daily losses must be gigantic.

I'm definitely curious to see what they end up using. If the solution ends up involving choppers, there's obviously the question of tensile load specs for all the involved parts (the chopper itself, the cables, the containers, wind considerations, etc). I don't imagine they would have enough equipment with sufficiently large specs just laying around in case of an emergency like this, especially on such a large scale (recall we're talking about airlifting truck-sized loads, possibly numbering in the hundreds or even thousands), and it's not clear to me what kinds of forces the choppers are designed to withstand, especially if we consider lateral forces due to wind or container geometry or whatever.

I mean the boat is located 90 minutes from Cairo. It’s not easy but Cairo has skyscrapers and a construction industry.

Of course there is the “what is physically possible” and “what is politically doable” and there maybe a bit of a gulf there.

I think there's a canal there, actually.

There once was a canal there...now Evergreen Gulf. Or Gulf of Evergreen perhaps.

I mean, heavy-lifting choppers are something that I'd also expect the average NATO or (former) Warsaw Pact nation to have, and it's arguably in their best interests to make sure a key shipping route is operational (and in Egypt's best interests to accept any help possible).

Hell, Israel's close by, and I'm pretty sure they've got this sort of airpower in droves and are probably pretty heavily reliant on the Suez Canal; maybe instead of fighting with Egypt the Israelis could, say, pitch in and foster some good will? And further, it'll make up for the time when fighting between the two countries caused a Suez Canal blockage ;)

I am afraid you underestimate the weight of those TEUs and overestimate the capabilities of the Sikorsky CH-53 (which is what Israel has). That chopper has a max payload of 32000 lbs and a 40ft TEU has a max gross weight of 67500 lbs. Maybe you get lucky... but you'd need a lot of luck.

Also, if they find this is feasible, you don't necessarily need Israel to get a few Sikorsky choppers there, at least the Incirlik air base must have some and the Sikorsky definitely has the operational range to cross over there on its own, Iran certainly has some, the Eisenhower last I checked a few weeks ago was near Italy and surely that group has at least a few Sea Dragons...

> That chopper has a max payload of 32000 lbs and a 40ft TEU has a max gross weight of 67500 lbs. Maybe you get lucky... but you'd need a lot of luck.

1. This assumes that the containers are actually loaded to their maximum gross weight. That doesn't seem likely; you're much more likely to run out of volume first - even if you're deliberately "optimizing" for as much weight in those containers as possible.

1a. This assumes that the heavy containers are at the top rather than the bottom, which would be backwards from how containers are supposed to be stacked (or even allowed to be stacked per your average safety guidelines around center of mass, stack limits, etc.).

2. This assumes that multiple helicopters can't work in tandem (which they can, from what I understand).

So yeah, even if there are some containers that are too heavy to safely unload via helicopter, I strongly suspect that quite a few - most, probably - of those containers could be readily unloaded. And further, even if that ain't enough to get the ship moving again, it's at least a good start.

> the Eisenhower last I checked a few weeks ago was near Italy and surely that group has at least a few Sea Dragons...

Even better.

> 2. This assumes that multiple helicopters can't work in tandem (which they can, from what I understand).

Do you mean two helicopters carrying a single slung load? That is not practised anywhere.

Tandem loads in military terms refer to a single helicopter carrying two slung loads, one in front of the other.

As far as I know, none of the helicopters mentioned above are rated for sling operations with 40ft containers.

> As far as I know, none of the helicopters mentioned above are rated for sling operations with 40ft containers.

There was a sea basing study and that only looked at 20ft containers and dismissed even a theoretical upgraded CH-53X (although of course the study was looking at much longer range than just lifting it and putting it back down) but again, that was just 20ft, these 40ft ones are just too heavy for choppers.

A writeup https://www.aerotime.aero/27542-Could-helicopters-solve-the-... if anything, the Royal Jordanian Air Force operates two Mi-26s but

> For many containers, using helicopters would probably mean at least partially unloading their cargo, which is a difficult and time-consuming endeavor. The process of removing containers by helicopters would be even more difficult, dangerous, and time-consuming, so it is very, very unlikely we will see it implemented unless the situation gets really desperate.

TEU means Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit and is a measure of container capacity. A 40-foot container is 2 TEUs.

I mean, physical existence of a chopper vs its viability for this specific operation are very different things. Think of it this way: you may have a car, and you may even be familiar with installing and maneuvering a standard size tow. But that doesn't mean that I can just ask you out of the blue to come over and tow a prefab house that you've never handled before, then ask you to do it again a dozen times over (and on the double), and expect everything to go peachy.

Right, but in this context we're talking about countries with helicopters specifically intended to haul heavy things like shipping containers (and tanks, and trucks, and military base prefabs, and stuff). Keeping the analogy, it's like if you bought a Ford F-650 and your neighbors need help pulling some broken down semi (that's blocking the whole road) off the street in front of their house. And maybe you and your neighbor ain't on the best of terms, but you decide to at least offer to help anyway, because you need to use that street, too, and what was the point of buying that big pickup truck if you ain't gonna do truck stuff?

In this case, you're Israel, your neighbor's Egypt, the street is the Suez Canal, the semi is a giant container ship, and your F-650 is about 23 CH-53-derived heavy-lifting helicopters.

But do they actually routinely haul shipping containers packed to the brim? And continuously for days on end? There are various people in this thread saying that they can't, either because the specs are not up to par or because the stress risks rapid/early mechanical failure.

Also, while we're at it w/ terrible analogies, consider that many people (including the CEO of the company that got called to clean up this mess) are saying this is going to take weeks. The more accurate analogy is that your F-650 is a dozen tugboats, the truck is not blocking the road, but instead sunk in a marsh an hour away from town (the suez sand bank), loaded w/ 10,000 50lb lead anvils (the containers) and all the manpower you are able to summon in order to move those anvils are a dozen highly paid software engineers (the choppers) who may or may not be inclined to take a week off to help you move the anvils off the truck, and who may or may not be actually physically capable of helping even if they wanted to spend their week hauling hundreds of 50lb anvils by hand. Oh, and you can't just drop anvils in the marsh either, even by accident, due to the risk of poisoning the water supply for the town. And you can't rule out the risk of one of the software engineers tripping and drowning. And you're not even sure your F-650 can pull the truck out without tumbling it on its side or yanking off the front axle even if you empty it out completely.

Average expected teu is 30k lbs on a ship. A 20ft container is already close to the redline of these helicopters on the average. You cant max these vehicles for more than an hour or so without needing repairs. A 40ft container cant even be considered. Nearly all containers are packed to the brim to ink out max goods shipped. The whole chopper idea is just a movie fantasy for this. Real life is not pleasant to armchair theory.

> Average expected teu is 30k lbs on a ship

Yeah, average. That doesn't mean that every container - or even most containers - are loaded to that weight per TEU. Indeed, it's highly likely that they're not; the heavy containers are going to be toward the bottom, and the lighter containers are going to be toward the top. And there are probably a lot more light containers than heavy ones, because...

> Nearly all containers are packed to the brim

Volumetrically, yes. Not necessarily in terms of weight. Indeed, unless you're shipping gold ingots or something, "max goods shipped" necessarily means that you're more likely to run into volumetric limits first.

Not to mention that the max container weight in practice is usually a fair bit lower than the ISO spec, since those containers have to get to their destination - which means traveling on roads and railways with their own weight limits (both for the whole vehicle and per-axle), and on vehicles that themselves are part of that limit (and themselves have limits of their own). And further, a container can only have so much weight stacked on top of it.

> Real life is not pleasant to armchair theory.

Indeed it is not, which is why when it comes to the containers themselves I'm speaking from experience as a professional in the supply chain / logistics field :)

(But yes, admittedly my knowledge on military helicopters is less substantial, so if there's someone who's not an armchair theorist on that topic who wants to chime in, that'd be most welcome)

FYI, it is in fact not necessary to start a comment with "I mean".

I mean, regardless of necessity it ain't like it hinders parsing of the comment, FYI.

Nor “FYI”.

I suspect something more like they drop the containers in the desert. The value of the goods is irrelevant in the face of cutting off Europe from Asia.

It seems that containers may be too heavy. The most powerful chopper (the M-26) lifts up to 20,000kg (with most heavy-lift choppers probably lifting about half that), while some containers may wel exceed 30,000kg.

Wikipedia says: As of 2016, the Mi-26 still holds the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale world record for the greatest mass lifted by a helicopter to 2,000 metres (6,562 ft) – 56,768.8 kilograms (125,000 lb) on a flight in 1982.

That is 56.8 to 62.5 tons, depending on the type of ton. Lift two containers at once.

Making things even easier, the shipping company knows the position and weight of every container. The containers have been carefully placed, keeping the weight low and spread evenly. The containers on top are the low-weight ones.

Two paragraphs earlier, Wikipedia states "the Mi-26 has a payload of up to 20 tonnes (44,000 lb)". Exceeding the documented maximum payload by almost a factor of 3 sounds like an excessive amount of overengineering, even by software standards. :-)

You're right that most of the heaviest containers would be at the bottom of the stack. That's kind of a mixed blessing though..

That's at the max takeoff weight (56,000kg), including the weight of the helicopter, fuel, crew, etc.

Depending on the temperature as the site, that could be a lot lower.

Ha, in the late 90s/early 00s, there was some buzz in Germany about building a huge freight airship: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CargoLifter

They went bankrupt, which is kinda sad. It had a designed lift capacity of 160t, so could theoretically lift several containers at once, given the right harness.

(Of course I have no idea if it would be have been practical to use it to unload the containers, but the idea is certainly intriguing).

The fundamental problem/flaw with that was when dropping off something you needed to somehow get a dummy load to not float away. (releasing the helium is not an option due to economical reasons)

Have you ever tried to stack containers before? Or had to airlift something via tow on a helicopter? You can do the latter (I watched it happen in the military), but the former isn’t happening from a helicopter, not into a floating barge anyway.

There's no shortage of nearby desert not being used for anything else.

But the final goal is to put the containers back on the ship after it gets unstuck, no? I imagine the point of the containers being on the ship in the first place is that there are not enough trucks on land to get the containers off the desert to their destinations.

Right now the goal is to unblock the canal; if the entire cargo were lost in the process, that would be expensive, but I'm not confident it'd be more expensive than blocking shipping through for an extra fortnight.

@nerfhammer: Great idea, littering the canal with sharp debris pieces so the next ships will be torn to shreds :)

Dredging is the easy part. Not sure how much swimming happens in the canal. We only have to worry about cutting through steel, not skin.

Ships traveling at 7 knots over a minefield of sunken containers will happily shred their steel skin.

It sounded like they were intended to drop them on land, where one would hope no ships would be hitting them. 'Lost' would be referring to the likely chance that once put on the desert they wouldn't be retrieved.

it follows then that we should consider blowing up the ship

I suspect that might very well be on the table.

Hell, a big enough explosion might prevent ships from ever getting stuck at that spot again.

And you could recoup the costs by selling tickets to watch the explosion.

Ideally, but the value of whatever cargo is on the ship is worth less than a functioning global supply chain.

How the insurance would be settled would be interesting, I suppose it'd be the same as though the cargo was blown overboard.

The ship isn't floating though, that's the problem. But I'd imagine it's very stable when trying to lift stuff of due to it being stuck.

Yep. Throw a bunch of these and a bunch of fossil fuels at the problem:


There are comments further down explaining how the containers likely weigh substantially more than the lift capacity of heavy lift helicopters. They'd have to partially unload the contents of each individual container first.

And if you're unloading, the human labor cost to unload the whole container is probably cheaper than the cost of running a fleet of helicopters for weeks to months.

The Skycrane helicopter that OP referred to is a true beast. It can lift heavy tanks and intact electricity towers. I won't be surprised if it gets used to lift the containers one-by-one.


That is nowhere close to the biggest. Check out the Mi-26:



Even that is not enough. It can lift 20 tons, and the 40 foot containers on this ship are heavier than that.

Wow, the Chinook looks so tiny in comparison to the Mi-26.

40ft container maximum weight is 67,200 lbs. Skycrane max payload is 20,000 lbs and Mi-26 is 44,000 lbs. But do you think all the containers are at max weight? The ones on top are the lightest and the helicopters might be able to help with them after all, or maybe we can find a way to use two helicopters per container.


> or maybe we can find a way to use two helicopters per container

Spoken like a true programmer :) That's incredibly difficult and dangerous.

Lol, Can we compose the helicopters?

Split it into many micro-helicopters, each deployed and scaled independently?

I'm picturing a fleet of a few thousand hobbyist drones.

It would sound like a massive angry swarm of bees.

And their batteries would all run out at once and we get the biggest non-nuclear 'splash' in history.

Can be heavier than that most won't be the max gross tonage. The biggest hurdle might be knowing which ones they can pick though. In not sure if the shipping company keeps the weights of every container on file somewhere.

It can lift at least 56.8 to 62.5 tons, depending on your definition of tons. The heavy containers have been placed on the bottom of the ship for better stability, leaving the lightest ones on top.

28 tons of that is the helicopter itself though i think?

Or just blowing it up and push the pieces to the sides I would guess...

I like the way you think.

I'd buy a plane ticket to Suez to see that. Or even pay for a proper 4k stream of the event.

Build a pyramid on top and let scavengers do their thing

I like this scavengers idea. How far is it to Cairo, and what's unemployment like after Corona killed the tourism industy? Unlock all the containers, tell people you're paying them fifteen bucks an hour to come unload, AND they get to keep whatever they can carry off. How many people can you fit on that ship at once?

The containers are typically rated for no more than 40,000 lbs each. Skycrane can lift 20,000, so you'd use two per.

Or three per. Use a triangular spreader/yoke to keep them from having to pull laterally against (away from) each other. Single pivot point in the middle from which the load is suspended, allowing for imperfect coordination during hovering & movement. (The spreader can tilt or rotate.) Let a crawler crane and crew on the bank handle stacking/arrangement. Each container is lifted a second time into its temporary desert resting place. Has never been done before, just like space flight once. Would cost a lot and be dangerous, just like the military-industrial complex. Won't go perfectly, just like everything ever. Is inefficient, similar to but less so than losing the Suez Canal. Would take a long time, so start now. Really want to sarcastically thank all the naysayers and downvoters for policing all the dangerous creativity going on in this helicopter subthread. We must be more careful, especially considering how closely the shipping industry watches the Hacker News comments for ideas!

Yeah, i don't belive two pwe container is nearly enough. 3 or even 5 is a better idea smh, but you likely need 3 or 5 exceptionnal pilot who don't care if they die for science (and internationnal commerce).

All true, though I imagine the plan is unloading only some of the containers in conjunction with dredging, pumping out fuel, etc. Still huge scale, but I imagine getting just one of the ends out of the sand would open up more options.

Another reference is that the ship is as long as the empire state building is tall.

What if they retrofitted the propeller as a winch and connected a steel cable?

Just dragging the ship across the sand risks damaging the hull and making the situation worse

Not to mention dragging a 300,000,000 pound ship through sand is... difficult.

Next subsidized Elon venture: The Dragging Company.

"It's A Real Drag(TM)"

Hmm. Are there magic fish that eat sand what we could release down there?

Maybe we can use pumps to inject the sand with hagfish slime?


That's going to either snap the cable or damage the propeller. Probably both.

It looks like the people that freed the ship yesterday were not that bad at estimating scale.


It probably was when it was initially built :) .

Could you build a temporary barrier around the ship and the section of the canal, bring in some massive pumps, and temporarily raise the water level around the ship?

Edit: Something like this https://www.hydrologicalsolutions.com/aqua-barrier-cofferdam...

In the middle parts of the ship it is probably not grounded, so you might have ropes below the hull with large inflatable balloons on both sides below water level, to give the ship extra lift. Then on a high tide, with oil & water removed, maybe some dredging on the sides where it needs to rotate to, and.. go!

Lets say they cabled a Goodyear blimp to each side of the ship One Goodyear blimp is about 5,000 m^3 and a meter^3 of seawater is about a ton, so that gives us 10,000 tones of lifting force!.

The ship weighs 220,000 so it will be riding about 4.5% higher in the water. The main channel is very narrow. Its bow is buried about 20m deep and 100m into the shallow bottom outside of the channel. They are not going to lift it out.

Now I want a giant sci-fi blimp to swoop in and lift it up.

Maybe something like those air/water tanks they attached to the side of the Costa Concordia to float it [1].

But you would have to take great care to prevent it from rolling over, so you probably can't lift it up too far.

1: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28288823

Just so everyone is clear: The company that handled the salvaging of the Costa Concordia is the company that is handling the salvaging of this ship. Same exact people! You can bet that they are going to be doing the best thing that can be done.

Yes, but remember how long the Costa Concordia salvage took:


wow 15 months

And if you want to know more about the Costa Concordia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh9KBwqGxTI

Using the same Concordia techniques maybe SMIT Salvage would float Evergreen to 'loosen' it a bit out of sand, loosen further by dredging, and then when high tide comes [1], Evergreen would be able to turn around with help of tug boats.

[1] https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/best-shot-at-unblocking-suez...

I totally came here to suggest huge balloons!

/larry ellison flies in & starts using his fuel cell zeppelin to save the day

i'd swear someone changed my comment but no it was me i'm an idiot. it's not even the other larry! sergey brin. sergey brin flies in with a zeppelin & floats the boat.

Someone get the old man and that little boy scout from Up on the phone, stat!

As the proud father of a toddler my first thought was "somebody call the paw patrol"

"Zuma, I'm going to need your boat, and Sky, I'm going to need you to unload containers onto Zuma. Paw Patrol, let's go!"

I went to Bob the Builder. That dude can fix it.

I've had the exact same idea but the canal bank is very shallow.. so you would have to build around the whole ship (as you said). This also seems like a major undertaking.

I am excited to see how they will solve the problem though!

If the bank is very shallow and mostly sand, maybe instead of building a damn all around the ship it would be easier to just dredge a new passage that goes around the stuck ship. After all the real problem isn't that the ship is run aground, it's that the canal is blocked for everyone else.

If would be a very long diversion. The turning radius of large ships is, well, astronomical, we're talking miles.

The canal itself is MASSIVE - 79ft deep and 700ft wide - and if you're turning you'd need to be wider still. We're talking about removing absolutely massive amounts of material.

> The turning radius of large ships is, well, astronomical, we're talking miles.

That's when under speed. If these ships don't have the unidirectional port engines like cruise ships do for maneuvering in tight spots (and they may not, I don't know), in this situation they would likely use tugboats for turning. That's what they're for.

That doesn't necessarily make a diversion feasible, but I don't think whether it's feasible or not rests on whether these ships can turn. That's really not the problem as I see it.

If with a zero turn radius, these ships are in excess of 1000ft long...you need a lot of clearance and a large radius just because of the physical dimensions (and so you know, we don't get a second ship wedged sideways in the canal.

We're talking about digging a diversionary channel. Making either end of that where it connects to the current channel wider to accommodate turning is trivial in comparison.

If you're talking about digging a diversionary channel, then why not just dig around the boat with the same equipment?

Excavate sand around + weight from ship pancakes sand its sitting on, gradually = ship lowers back to floating depth

Probably very complicated since you couldn't have people in close. What if, as is not unlikely, part of the bank suddenly crumbles and the boat shifts?

Also, I doubt the sand goes down very deep...this is a costal area, not rolling dunes. You're going to hit rock quickly.

Interestingly enough, the Wikipedia page for this ship says it does have two 2500kW bow thrusters. I imagine if they were worth much in this situation we wouldn’t be talking about them, though.


Looking it up a 2500kW bow thruster gives a thrust of about 30 tons (https://www.thrustmaster.net/tunnel-thrusters/electric-motor...)

which is not going to do much here. It seems the trouble with a lot of solutions - the tugs can probably tug with a force of something like 600 tons combined but the ship weights 220,000 tons which is like putting a force of 5kg on a 2 ton car which is stuck. Probably not going to budge it.

Really you want something which will shove it with a force maybe 10% of the weight, say 20,000 tons but there don't seem to be many of those lying around.

I wondered if they tied a cable from the ship to one of the other large ships nearby and fired up the main engines if that could do something?

I imagine they could snap the cable, but that doesn't seem very useful.

For fluid dynamic reasons those sort of thrusters are only effective when the ship is stationary

Well, at the moment the ship is _very_ stationary.

And then some other ship would get stuck while turning?

They're called azipods.

> The turning radius of large ships is, well, astronomical, we're talking miles.

But do the ships actually have to turn? As long as they are floating instead of stuck in the sand, can't they be dragged sideways, either by tugboats or by stationary winches on land?

Of course, the ships would have to stop first, which would take miles of slowing down, and it would probably still be faster to fully dig the stuck ship out of the sand than to dig a diversion channel.

The existing canal is largely straight, so any detour would inevitably involve at least 3 turns..

or just 1.

Well, they did it before, and without the help of the massive diggers we have currently, so it can’t be that hard, relatively speaking.

Besides, my newspaper said that the economic losses of the stuckness amount to like 400M per hour. That is a looot of money you can throw at a problem.

The Suez Canal took 10 years to build, with > 30,000 people working on it at any given time and over 1.5M total laborers, thousands of whom died.

I don't think we want to be waiting for 10 years. Cheaper to blow up the ship and its cargo than to re-build a whole new canal.

Blowing it up isn't really a solution either, that still leaves the canal blocked, as it was for 8 years after the 6 day war.


I was being semi-facetious, but now I see that a bunch of people seem to be suggesting that in all seriousness. Poe's Law strikes again.

Actually with a well placed nuclear warhead placed directly under the ship, it could be thrown out of the canal and into the nearby desert clearing the canal route /s

Think outside the box some more. With enough nuclear warheads, trade between Asia and Europe can be made completely irrelevant!

Fun fact: the ship is larger than the fireball of a peacekeeper warhead would be (~320 meters)

Those were what, 300kiloton’s ish? So if we go to 1+ megaton we’d be good. Seems reasonable if we go up to 3-4 megatons, maybe we’d even end up with a big enough crater one of these ships could pull a three point turn next time?

A better way would be to explode one medium sized nuke under the ship, wait a few seconds then explode another and then start exploding nukes behind it until it's going fast enough.

Project Orion did contemplate a 400m diameter ship weighing 8 million tons....


I like the way you think! Saving the global economy through nuclear propulsion of kiloton scale commercial shipping. It could finally get us to Mars?


>Proposed uses for nuclear explosives under Project Plowshare included widening the Panama Canal, constructing a new sea-level waterway through Nicaragua nicknamed the Pan-Atomic Canal, cutting paths through mountainous areas for highways, and connecting inland river systems.

Okay, something like the Tsar Bomba then? /s

May want to use two of those bad boys then

I suspect any nuke smaller than the Tsar Bomb would leave top large pieces in the way.

Dredge a new passage? These ships do not turn on a dime, it would have to be started way before this blockage, and end way after the blockage so that the entry and exit are shallow enough of an angle for even the largest ships to handle with easy.

You're basically asking why can't they just make a whole new canal in less than a week?

I'd think that rather than dredge enough sand/dirt to create a completely new channel, it'd be easier to dredge out enough next to the ship to free it. They should only need to dredge out the bow and stern, the middle of the ship is already in deeper water.

No, just change the density. The oil industry uses cesium formate. It's relatively non-toxic. The brine can have density of 19.2 pounds per gallon. (2.3 grams/mL)


You might end up getting it stuck higher. Then what?

if we keep going then the other ships can just duck.

Submarine container ships or an underpass would be cool.

Then that is tomorrow me's problem!

I honestly think a lot of thinking works that way, where we'll let tomorrow me worry about it. To be fair, a lot of the time it makes sense. The problems a solution creates are things we need to accept when alternative is worse (think global warming vs starvation circa 1770).

I honestly think that if you are involved in an operation like this and you bring this attitude to work that you'll be fired before the day is out.

This is the kind of job you want to get right the first time.

Build a taller barrier!

If it keeps getting stuck higher and higher at some point it will be out of the canal thus solving the problem, no?

Plus: free bridge!

Coincidence ... my town is actually installing these in anticipation of a Spring flood.

Here's a drone video I took today!


I didn't realize they were water-filled!

Nice video, thanks for sharing. We shall defeat the water, with water! :D

I'm not at all qualified on these matters, but that's one of the better ideas I've read.

Wow that link - well thats a clever system! I would have never come up with something like that yet it's so simple in hindsight!

Imagine the pressures on the temporary barrier too, and what a failure would mean. Even bigger disaster.

The pressure on the hypothetical levee wouldn't be much since we're only talking about a couple dozen feet of water depth. (Yes, some jerk is going to come along and calculate out that that's an impressive amount of total force and act like that's a big deal but it's not really that impressive when you've got a huge amount of material to spread it out over).

Digging out around the ship is going to be much less work because of the amount of material you'll need to move and how far you'll need to move it.

Hey, that's an incredible amount of force, it's too risky, not to mention it will impact the local ecosystem, and uh, stuff!

Regardless, removing cargo and/or dredging around the ship is gonna be tons (literally) less work (literally).

A dual approach might be to dig around, but just place the dirt in preparation for a temporary levy scenario.

So much cash burned per hour, a fallback wouldn't hurt, and secondary backhoes could be used, so the primaries don't slow down in their primary task, dredging.

Of course, I bet someone is, even now, trying to reduce costs, not caring that even an hour or two will wipe out all savings.

That is an engineer's job, of course, to match project outcomes to schedule and cost.

An atom bomb would certainly clear the canal, but what of the cost?

A failure would mean all the water bursts out and the ship is stuck again. I don’t see how that would set us back much?

The spot where the ship is abuts to a town with a 750k pop. There are residential neighborhoods directly adjacent to the canal.

Ah, yeah. Given the location I think the original plan is already a bit hard to execute, even without the flood risk.

That would take weeks-to-months. It's faster to dredge around it with a mobile barge.

the land around the canal looks pretty flat, those would have to be very strong barriers

Could the containers themselves be used to help create such a temporary barrier?

> Look at some of the photos of the front of it. Look at how far out of the water it is sitting. The ship might look like that if it were totally empty, but not when it is full of containers like this.

One thing many people are missing is the Suez Canal is not concrete, it’s sand, so the canal “walls” are not vertical they’re a relatively gentle 3:1 slope (4:1 in wider areas). Meaning only the center half of the canal is flat and “at depth”, the ship started hitting sand 30-40m from the edge of the canal. By the time it reached the visible edge it’s half-sitting on sand half wedged into it.

There are locks on either end of the canal. I wonder if the water level can be raised a little to help?

There is high tide in canal till next Thursday. It is the best window moving the ship. Once low tide, it will be much more difficult to unstuck the ship and move.


>Some people have suggested unloading the ship. I don't think you realize the infrastructure required to unload a ship. You're basically asking to build a port in the middle of the egyptian desert. That isn't going to happen.

I say build a trebuchet on deck and start launching containers into the desert.

There are 20 thousand containers on that ship. No, that's not a mistake. It says it can carry 20 thousand and I assume it travels at capacity.

Even if you could somehow launch one every minute that would still take 2 weeks of non-stop bombardment.

Fascinating how much stuff you can put on a ship and the scale of loading/unloading operation.

Huh, a case where using kubernetes is actually justified.

Also like kubernetes, here's a picture of 20,000 zombie containers, getting no work done.

Thank you, I needed that laugh.

Well, using helm certainly would have been advisable.

Maybe they did! Modern helm doesn't have a tiller ... seems like this explains the mid-canal steering problem!

I was thinking, no way isn’t there a 10k container limit?

Nope 300k appr ! https://kubernetes.io/docs/setup/best-practices/cluster-larg...

It has a max capacity of 20 thousand TEU, which is "20 foot equivalents". Most of the containers on the ship appear to be 40 foot ones. So 10,000 is probably closer to the total number.

Edit: It may also not be "full". Here's a top/bottom picture with the most "full" I could find on the top, and the current situation on the bottom. https://imgur.com/a/b8neNkR

Edit: So maybe 6000 40 foot containers, current state?

In the photo where it looks quite full, the visible edge containers appear to be about 10x24x28 or 6,720 not accounting for missing ones on the top layers. In a photo from today it looked closer to only 6,000. Of course this methodology may be flawed or have some bad assumptions. Like containers below the visible deck layer??!

Pretty sure they would all be above and visible. Here's the ship empty: http://www.shipspotting.com/photos/middle/7/2/1/2892127.jpg

And a good photo to confirm your 28 bow-to-stern number: https://photos.fleetmon.com/vessels/ever-given_9811000_26410...

They hold containers inside, too. Or else the ship would get too top-heavy. https://i.pinimg.com/originals/dd/72/f2/dd72f2e14fa997abad81...

Oh wow. Not enough to double it but this could get it right to around 10,000 forty foot containers or 20,000 TEU.

Which also suggests if they start pushing containers off to lighten the load, they’ll be easy to push, but they’ll need to push off more.

Nice! There do appear to be gaps reducing that 28 a bit, too... So I can't imagine there are 6,720 containers on the ship today.

Thanks for the correction.

Then a week of bombardment. Still impressive.

How do they load and unload these things in a port in only a couple of days?! Do the cranes take off several containers at a time? It's hard for me to imagine they can move a container off the ship and get back to another container in less than a minute.

The cranes take one container off at a time (except when the container underneath sticks to the top one, which is not good). Actually, wikipedia says some cranes do two to four containers on purpose now.

Usually the crane operator will load/unload several containers without moving along the dock; because they're all lined up, the crane only needs to travel in two dimensions (vertically and across the boat from port to starboard). The cranes are specialized to pick up containers by the top corners, which makes connecting fast. Standardized containers means the corners are at the same place (ok, there's a few sizes, but 40 ft containers are the vast majority of ocean shipping) and lining up is easy. On the dockside, there's a crew of longshoremen that move chassis (trailers) into place for the crane to drop (gently, usually) the containers on, those are then parked nearby, etc.

Depending on the ship (and the dockside staffing), you can have multiple cranes working the ship. Planning is required to keep the ship balanced and minimize the number of containers moved. These ships generally visit several ports in order, and usually both unload and load at all of them, so it's complex.

Depending on the traffic (and pandemics), the port runs up to three shifts.

You can have multiple cranes working on a ship in parallel, like in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=590t6mbebsc

And they are unloaded onto something that can transport them out of the way. Even in the desert, after 3,000 or so containers, finding room in the big pile to unload number 3,001 without moving the crane to make a new pile might be problematic.

This video really shows the process up close:


Yeah, and those systems are fully automated too - years if not decades before e.g. Amazon started doing something similar in their warehouses. Mind you, containers were standardized in the 60's so there's a bit of a head start there.

So no way you're doing it in less than a few months without a port facility. A year would be 1 every 25 mins which I think is more likely.

This is the way.

Just check the contents first so there's nothing really harmful inside.

Also start scaling up to multiple trebuchets as soon as possible and make it rain.

Stimulate the local economy via job creation for the clean up.

Monetize the live stream too.

The trebuchet will save the global supply chain thanks to you.

> Monetize the live stream too.

Don't forget to sell the containers as NFTs.

Now Flinging TEUs

Push enough off, then pull them onto the ground. Truck them to the local market and get whatever you can.

They are locked in place in a frame system. They have to be lifted off.

Unframe them?

When they’re unloaded, I don’t see a massive empty frame, so unframing is done at some level.

I’m thinking a shipping container zipline.

Would it not be easier to use Chinooks to remove cargo ?

Empty weight of a 40ft ISO is around 3,700kg Max weight of a container loaded is around 30,000kg

Max payload of a Chinook around 11,000 kg near sea level at not high temp. (correct my number here from the wrong version of the Chinook...older versions were 4,500kg)

So, if your container is a a quarter full, sure

The lighter ones will be at the top anyway to keep center of gravity correct.

Shipping company should know exact weights of each container for this and billing reasons.

Two CH-53E Super Stallions should be able to handle such a container, then (max external payload capacity is about 16,000kg). Any American aircraft carriers nearby?

And this assumes that the containers are indeed loaded to their full weight capacity.

I am astounded that, from the link you provided, it can take 60 stretchers.

I see that it's 40m long, that's incredible.

What’s the math like if you use 4 Chinooks? One on each corner. Someone, break down the component forces.

Maybe placing 4 helicopters within 40ft of each other is not such a great idea?

I should’ve been more clear. The helicopters could be 100 feet apart. Each helicopter would hook on to the corner of each container, and pull away diagonally.

The lift capability of this setup is from the y axis. But at a reduced load. This is a physics problem.

There are between 6 000 to 20 000 containers on this ship.

Thou reduce weight any meaningful amount you would need to remove hundreds or even thousands of containers.

I am not even sure if anyone would be willing to fly 4 helicopters tethered to each other, but even if they do, its going to be very slow for safety reasons.

And good like finding insurance company that is willing to cover, if anything goes wrong.

And enough pilots and helicopters, to do that 24/7 for a few months

> This is a physics problem no it isn't

This thing could have 20,000 containers on it. Thankfully it’s a 3rd of a mile long, so maybe you could offload 2 at a time, one helicopter on either end. At 1 container every 5 minutes....working 24 hours per day....that’s 70 days of work.

I doubt you’d have to unload the whole ship though.

Last time I heard that was the Maemo OS codename before Diablo

As this thread turned into 'post your crazy idea and get told why it would not work' here is my take: use powerful water pumps and direct streams of water to flush out the sand in spots where the ship rests on it and also around the bow.

Something like that, but redirected under the ship: https://youtu.be/BIoBGZLc7wM?t=184

This is the comment that proves the rule!

This is such a good idea that it actually exists and works.

Look up water injection dredging.

That's very likely to be used, probably in conjunction with the suction dredge already brought in. Using compressed air or water to push around the sand you want to dredge is quite common. Sometimes ships have been un-stuck from mud by injecting compressed air near the hull to break them free of suction.

As a salvage job, this isn't that bad. No waves, a good climate, easy land and water access, hull intact, on an even keel, no leaks. It's just big.

If you want to waste time on this, look up the AIS data for all the big dredges and cranes Boskalis and Smit own, and see what's moving towards the Med. Here's the Boskalis dredger fleet.[1] If those guys decide to move sand, sand will be moved.

Smit's ships include the Smit Borneo, which is a crane ship big enough to take containers off a large container ship. It's done that before.[2] If they have to partially unload the ship in place, it can be done. Not all that fast, but it will get done.

Here's a Smit container removal job from a smaller ship, but one in much worse condition.[3]

Those guys do a lot of planning and modeling first. The idea is not to make things worse.

[1] https://boskalis.com/about-us/fleet-and-equipment/dredgers.h...

[2] https://photos.marinetraffic.com/ais/showphoto.aspx?photoid=...

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0ZSdVGLj-Y

That's probably what they will end up using, it's also the most compact thing they can bring to the site in short order. I mean companies like Boskalis and Mammoet have massive seaborne cranes, but it'll take a while for them to get there - I'm sure they're already on the way as well, in case the other solutions don't work or are late.

That's actually even a technique that has been used in these places in the past - Egypt used it when attacking Israeli fortifications on one of the banks during one of the conflicts in the past, just washed them away so they could cross with less resistance.

I wonder if a modified jet boat could work? A bit like those flying platforms that are built as a hose connected to the output of a jetski.

Or direct pressure up from below to liquefy the sand, quicksand-style.

If you unload 20,000 TEU's onto rail cars it takes 5000 cars, double-stacked. That's 50 100-car trains. It'll take weeks to months to load and unload all that, if a proper rail depot is available to take it. It takes huge cranes to reach across a megaship and into its hold. That'd have to be build. On sand.

The idea that there's any quick way to manage the cargo of this ship is whistling in the dark.

Cranes on barges or ships, unloading the cargo into other ships is probably the most viable way to unload any significant amount of cargo.

I agree with your reasoning here. I'm genuinely interested in your interpretation of the idiom, "whistling in the dark".

I have heard this as, "whistling in the wind", taken to imply sound waves are distorted by wind patterns since sound waves use air molecules for conveyance. Whistling into the wind would tend to dampen sound waves intended for up-wind listners. Whereas, whistling with the wind tends to cause a whistle with the same decibel level as the into-the-wind variety to travel a bit further to down-wind listners.

How would the medium of light impact travel distance of sound waves? Or is there a cultural reference here that is different for me as a American english speaker?

Two different idioms, both fairly widely used (not sure about US vs non-US, but I've heard both as a non-American).

'Whistling in the wind' is about futility. A whistle is inaudible in the face of a massive elemental force like wind. "The lone excavator pushed on the hull of the colossal container ship, but it was whistling in the wind."

'Whistling in the dark' is about presenting a brave face in an intimidating situation: a nonchalant whistle in fear-inducing darkness. "They confidently claimed the ship would be moved in two days, I knew they were whistling in the dark."

If you care about understanding people and being understood, simply looking up idioms is way more effective than trying to construct meaning from physical principles. Just a thought :)

Why do they need to be put on rail cars ? Unload them onto the sand next to the canal.

After you hit the limit of the crane reach, where does the next one go? Stacking on unstable sand seems a bad choice. So maybe 10% can be unloaded and just set on the ground. After that, they have to be moved somewhere.

I think the idea is that they would only partially unload. Get enough weight off the bow to help move it out.

The pictures I've seen completely hide the ship's bulbous bow. It juts out seemingly like 50 feet from the front of the bow that you can see. It looks like all of that is wedged in the sand

Bingo. It's long, fat, and like the pharaohs ... buried in Egypt.

Snip snip.

Just cut the tip off.

Well the front's not supposed to fall off. The front fell off in this case, but it's very unusual.

What's the minimum crew requirement?

One, I suppose.

context for those who haven't seen it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3m5qxZm_JqM

That's hilarious, thanks for posting

And have it sink there permanently?

Ships have watertight bulkheads behind the bow in case they run into something. The ship can definitely sail without the bow. They should just cut it off and leave it there as a reminder to others not to f* up.

It’s half a joke. Think men in tights. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=k4v8BVKlAfM

But also curious of the bulb can be removed without affecting the integrity.

Yes, the bulb can be removed and the ship still seaworthy.

I wonder, could you liquify the soil around the buried part of the ship by pumping air into the surrounding areas? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soil_liquefaction

Just use some thumpers and Shai-Hulud will save the day.

Classic old man and sandworm pulling the ship free.

Now that is an interesting idea.

Only about the center third of the channel is actually deep enough for this massive ship. Both ends of the ship is stuck in several meters of sand. So far they've only managed get two bulldozers on to try and dig it out but progress is slow.

Those excavators are there for show while they try to figure out what to do. There is absolutely no chance that 2 guys with excavators are going to dredge out enough of the canal to free the ship, and the canal authorities know this.

It there was even shadow of a chance that that might work, then every single excavator in Northern Africa would be on it's way to the canal to dig it out and free the ship.

In fact I'd say that if there was even a snowball's chance in hell that that would work, China would be airdropping excavators into the area as we speak.

> In fact I'd say that if there was even a snowball's chance in hell that that would work

Damn straight, considering the law of salvage[1]:

> The law of salvage is a principle of maritime law whereby any person who helps recover another person's ship or cargo in peril at sea is entitled to a reward commensurate with the value of the property salved.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_salvage

I'm no expert but the ship does not appear to be at sea. One could even venture so far to say that that is the crux of the matter.

Not an expert either but I found this:

>Thus, if the ship was not a under command, unable to navigate or to reach port unaided, the service will be considered salvage even though the ship was not in imminent danger of destruction.

>It was in the light of this that Gilmore posits that releasing a ship that has run aground or on reefs, breaching a ship to keep her from running on rock, raising a sunken vessel, putting out a fire, and recapture of a ship taken by pirates, are all salvage acts.

The maritime salvor as a volunteer adventurer, Nzeribe Ejimnkeonye Abangwu, International Journal of Law, Volume 3; Issue 5; September 2017

I see what you did there

Well, the law of salvage wouldn't apply since there's no "peril at sea" involved - the ship and its crew and its cargo are in no imminent danger. They are stuck, but there's no damage or destruction expected to them that would justify salvage. Losses by ship inactivity or blocking the channel are out of scope for salvage, since these are costs to someone else, and salvage law applies when you rescue the property of the ship owner/operator, it refers only to value of ship and cargo and (recently) environmental damage like oil spills (if it would be the liability of the ship operator).

That's not a good deal. If it was your property that was lost, you now have to pay full price in cash to get your property back?

If that was the deal, forget salvaging it, just buy a new one with the cash instead.

Just ditch the ship and buy a new one if that's the choice you face.

Commensurate means proportionate, not equivalent. A $100 reward for rescuing a $100 billion ship is not commensurate, and neither is a $100 billion reward.

Well then what's the factor? 0.1? 0.5? 0.7?

From what I recall, its 25%

Oh it gets better, they could declare General Average https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_average and then instead of buying new one of what you lost you are chipping in for everyone else on board.

It's possible the excavation is exploratory in nature. It might be hard to know how stuck the bow is without digging a little.

Kind of amazing that in 48 hours, an event happens that threatens one of Egypts major income streams and political power sources, and the maximum they can spare is 2 bulldozers...

Like why not call in the army, rent every bulldozer in the district, and within 12 hours you'll have 30 on site and be able to move a lot of sand quickly to free it?

I watch Gold Rush and one of the prospectors use a massive Volvo excavator that makes those two tiny ones they use in Suez look like tinker toys.

I think they have no idea at this moment as the tugs can't get it done.

The (wo)man hour myth.

In all fairness, all the excavator in the world probably won't solve the problem, because they have to sit on land, but the ship cuts deep.

I don't think the "2 bulldozers" was a serious plan. Just what they happened to have nearby where someone thought to give it a go.

It's probably not easy to dig with excavators into the canal: they likely won't reach far enough

> Like why not call in the army, rent every bulldozer in the district, and within 12 hours you'll have 30 on site and be able to move a lot of sand quickly to free it?

Because that would all be a tremendous waste of money, and would not get the ship any closer to being free.

Is it possible someone is blocking the canal on purpose? For some geopolitical reason maybe.

Yeah but still doesn’t change the probability of it being on purpose or not.

Maybe someone on WSB who's built up a massive short-sell position.

Didn't most of them get in at 200-300? It's below that now.


That’s not fairness. Chinese expatriates bought up a lot of the world’s stock of masks early on when the pandemic was limited to China. Also, ventilator shortages ended up not being a thing. Keep up. The world is not as simple as “America bad.”


Why? Out of malice and ignorance? No other country in the world ramped up masks immediately. People put too much stock in the presidency, a position held for 8 years max, and too little stock in the massive systems decades, or hundreds+ years old with incredible inertia that are really responsible for 90% of what happens in the world.

Taiwan, for example, definitely DID ramp up mask production immediately after understanding COVID-19's threat.


The government there commissioned a "national mask team" task force... so there is some credence to the "poor governance" argument in the US.

Surgical masks as noted in the article, not N-95 masks which require the specialized equipment and materials.


Turns out blanketing the population with surgical masks, which are designed to block the sputum coughed into the air by a sick person, is an effective tactic against a respiratory disease!

Just look at those idiot nerds, making surgical masks HAHA. They didnt get the Fauci memo about masks being useless


Deaths: 10

Sure, and at this same time Europe still hadn’t, Nancy Pelosi was telling everyone to come party with her in SF Chinatown, Biden was still running campaign events, and the CDC was saying masks are ineffective.

Most people didn’t realize how bad covid was going to get, even the experts.

Nope, only Germany had the fiber machines, the reason they take a year to build is the global supply chain is so distributed, and you have to build many parts in series.

It's almost been a year and I don't see an end for masks in sight (even with vaccines). Anyone who didn't put money into more production of masks is just greedy. It certainly wasn't a matter of time.

They are, it just takes a year or so to build these mech/chem tech ology machines when the specialized work force is so small and the training takes so long for knowledge transfer... this flows all the way down to high purity polypropylene sourcing itself.

They know they have a monopoly. There are no viable alternative routes, so they just don't care enough.

Sure there is. It's about to be busier than usual.


Historically, isn't that a "stormier" route? As the euphemism "Cape of Good Hope" replaced the "Cape of Storms".

Also, I think shipping is about to get more expensive, I guess.

> Historically, isn't that a "stormier" route?

I'm no expert, but I think it makes a huge difference whether you're in a flimsy, wooden ship with even flimsier sails made of cloth, or in a 400m long, extremely massive steel vessel with a reliable internal combustion engine.

Vs. storms at sea it's not a major difference, and if anything the sail boat is in better shape. The real advantage is accurate weather reports to avoid the worst of it.

> if anything the sail boat is in better shape

Why? That sounds implausible. Firstly, the larger a ship, the less affected it is by waves. Secondly, high winds will shred your sails, but without sails it's hard to maneuver .

The problem with Ever Given was exactly the "sail area", since it was a big boat [1]. You can check videos of container ships in storms on Youtube.

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/sail-area

I did. They seem to be doing fine, even in waves which could have swallowed an entire sailing ship.

If I were South Africa, I would announce a tax on passing within 100 miles of their shore for commercial shipping...

Territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles (22 km) from a coastline.


Also this would be innocent passage anyways.

And that's how you'd get a nice, friendly visit from the Sixth Fleet.

"Knock knock. It's the United States. With huge boats. With guns. Gunboats."

The US navy has a proud tradition of gunboat diplomacy going back at least as far as commodore Perry and the opening of japan.

That's indeed the reference, yep: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Mh5LY4Mz15o

Well, that would trigger some Freedom of Navigation Operations.

If I were South Africa I would make sure that this route is as attractive as possible.

That would be illegal and if they attempted to enforce it they would be engaging in piracy.

Exactly. I'm guessing weeks rather than days, and maybe more than that.

The best I can come up with is heavy lift helicopters to at least remove the front most containers to relieve some of the pressure but even that would be an enormous operation.

Anything else would require major construction especially if it is to reach more than just the first four or five rows which is likely not going to be enough.


Can do up to 60 tons total weight for a bit. That should cover even the heaviest containers. At least, I hope it does, if not they're royally screwed.

The helicopter itself is 30 tons, leaving you 30. But 60 is the max takeoff weight. The max weight it is actually designed to operate at when carrying the maximum load is about 55 tons. With 30 for the helicopter itself, that leaves 25 tons for the load.

A container can be up to 33 tons loaded, so the heaviest will be beyond that helicopter (at least of you don't want to push it past its safe limits).

I assume that the heaviest containers are on the bottom of the stack, and that most containers aren't near the limit, so it could probably unload a substantial number of them.

I said 'total weight'. That includes the helicopter, obviously, you're not going to magically get a zero mass helicopter.

You can't take only the containers at the ends, however, because the uneven weight would cause the center of the ship to collapse.

Not so sure about that collapse, the keel of the ship is currently supporting all of that weight and seems to be holding up just fine. It's essentially a suspension bridge at this point, but I agree that it is probably better to unload evenly, however, that will add another very substantial time penalty. If the ship would break (which I have no idea at what load imbalance that would happen) there would be a delay a lot longer so it may be worth it to play this extra safe. But there is a very large amount of pressure on the people there to get this resolved.

Weeks are measured in what I'd call, a lot of money. Is it a consolidation of funds sort of issue? Anybody responsible for getting it fixed?

They hired a company specialized in this kind of stuff (Boskalis), but as their CEO mentioned of TV it depends on how stuck it is. If you're lucky, pumping out the fuel and ballast can make the ship light enough to drag it clear with tugboats. If that doesn't work, you might have to unload some, most or all of the 20k containers from the ship to make it light enough. It can be done, but depending on how much is required it'll take a few days to a week to get the required equipment all the way to Egypt.

If I estimated right, the fuel is a few percent of the total mass (maybe around 5%). Not the most encouraging result.

If it was floating, raising it out of the water by 5% would not be insignificant, and help relieve some of the forces holding it in place.

I wonder what's the margin for raising the center of gravity too much out of the water without risking it tipping, with all that cargo on top.

The people who should be desperately trying to pay a lot of money to get the ship unstuck are maritime insurance underwriters. There is a lot of insurance against late delivery. Unless they have managed to figure out how this is an act of god, that is.

That’s what they’re claiming - it was unexpectedly heavy winds in a sandstorm that caused it to ground.

Also, they had two canal pilots on board. I’m pretty sure that this absolves the shipping company of responsibility for guiding the ship safely.

Seems it's not always so cut-and-dry.


Egypt is bleeding money right now. It earned roughly USD 15,360,000.00/day from Suez passage fees in 2020.


I think this is the hidden story here. Egypt doesn't have a particularly strong economy, its stock market (unlike the US) is 40% below 2018, it's currency fell more than 50% vs USD in 2016 and has only recovered a few percent, and it (like the US) appears to have significantly more debt than ever before. And the entire globe is still somewhat covid-depressed economically.

When governments, banks and major companies are highly leveraged, all it takes is temporary system shocks to collapse the whole thing. It's not just the lost canal revenue, it's tons of companies in the region that can't get their goods to international markets which slows capital flows, tax revenue, import/export tariffs, etc. Will be interesting to see the effects.

https://tradingeconomics.com/egypt/currency https://tradingeconomics.com/egypt/external-debt

That's more than 5% of the total government revenue. It can definitively lead to instability in the currency because the government might be forced to print the deficit if it cannot secure funding through other means. The inflation rate is well above 2% which means that the government should cut spending and only put money into investments that net a return (cleaning up the canal nets a return).

Wow, costs $300K to transit through the canal per ship by fee alone? That is capital intensive.

It's amazing that more ships are not simply sailing around Africa.

The $300K cost is actually calculated to be just below the amount it would cost extra to sail around the cape, adjusting for other factors, of course.

There's actually a robust and competitive market for intercontinental shipping canals:


The ship can hold 20,000 containers so the fee is only $15 each. By comparison, it costs $16 to take the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan.

Their daily operating costs are a significant fraction of the $300,000 and it saves a couple weeks.

(tens of thousands of dollars just for fuel each day)

I'd imagine it is riskier sailing all the way around Africa than through the Suez, right?

It's risky for small boats due to the huge waves down there. Huge cargo ships seem to manage ok.

They do sometimes depending on oil prices and how much of a hurry they are in https://www.imarest.org/themarineprofessional/on-the-radar/i...

Given that so many ships that are run by people who can afford $300k per trip, which could pay the annual salary for a team of analysts, it's amazing you're making this comment.

Not really. Think of costs of fuel, costs of crew, I created insurance, slower delivery times.

Unloading is feasible, it would just take a couple of weeks. They just need a floating crane on each side and some barges to take the containers away.

I read that there aren't any tall enough cranes in that area to do it, so they're considering unloading some containers by helicopter.

Even if you could unload a container per minute you could only unload less than 1000 containers per day (assuming it's too dangerous to work at night) so at least 3 weeks of continuous helicopter operations.

Yes, that's true. It still might be faster than other options. You wouldn't likely need to unload the whole thing though, just lighten it enough to get it unstuck.

Doubt that's the case. The weight on it currently forced it deep enough into the sand. Just unloading half of it won't make it magically raise from the sands. The analogy here would be like saying pumping out Whale's stomach will make it possible to drag him back deep into the ocean.

Even though the vessel sits on sand, it still displaces a lot of water, which reduces the force of it sitting on the sand by a lot. Removing cargo, fuel, and dredging reduces it yet more.

Its most likely irrelevant. The reason why you see front so high up is because all the vessel's weight forced and smashed itself against the shallow water. At this point, rather than not the fuselage is damaged, and attempt to "ease up" the weight could only make it worse. I have been working enough around cargo vessels and at this size its never "oh he hit something, just put in reverse and you good to go". Similar if you ever get stabbed with a knife - hope never - but if you will, do not attempt to remove it on your own - you need to see a specialist who knows how to remove object it without causing internal bleeding, etc.

This vessel is most likely trash at this point. Time is of essence because tidal is pushing it against shallows and since its not perfectly centered it will eventually tip and with these amount of weight, not much tipping required for the whole thing to snawball. At this time they are figuring out how to quickly remove (save) as many containers as possible. Most likely will happen with another of these monsters to "park" close by and one by one will move the most expensive cargo first.

Another option I got from my buddy who is doing this stuff for life, is suggestion to dig up a whole big enough underneath to actually sunk the whole thing. This can be done in less than one week and is fastest most "stable" option. At this point they are not looking at saving this one vessel, but rather how to get the canal to operate again asap. You probably know it from driving on highway "move aside accident vehicles" is the most important thing to do.

Seems this, in retrospect, was alarmist and incorrect. Dredging and pumping out ballast/bilges worked.

We'll see. Right now it seems the plan is to dredge, and supplement that with partial unloading of the vessel.

But a few days of operations, and unloading ballast/fuel, and dredging, and other efforts to refloat may be successful together.

Hm. I live in Long Beach and those guys are definitely used to working at night

In helicopters? That's the tricky part.

… in helicopters, in the desert without the infrastructure of a major harbor, no less!

3 weeks of continuous helicopter operations for what? Ship doesn't need to be empty.

Plus a couple of weeks to get the cranes there, I guess.

that "just" is doing even more work than the guy in the digger.

Maybe. That's a lot of barges. Remember that you then have to go and unload the barges, and there are 20,000 containers.

> That's a lot of barges.

Maybe bring another Evergreen ship there and move containers onto it...?

20,000 TEU, not containers.

TEU being Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit, and containers generally are either 20ft or 40ft long.

You can see from pictures that most of the containers are 40 foot ones. Also, the ship doesn't appear to be at full capacity to me. See https://imgur.com/a/b8neNkR (top is as full a picture as I could find, bottom is current). My guess is ~6000 40 foot containers in its current state.

What's the difference, for purposes of estimating workload?

Containers are 1 or 2 TEUs, although doubles are more common for long distance, so you're probably looking at 10,000-ish containers.

Is there a reason they couldn't have a smaller crane on board and dump them over the side. Surely even losing the cargo would be cheaper than keeping it blocked at this point?

If you dump the containers over the side, you managed to remove a ship blocking the canal, but now it's blocked by containers.

Right, but you don't need to leave them there. If it's limited depth you could pull them away with barges.

How long do you think it takes to fish a 20 ton container up from the bottom of a canal and load it onto a barge? There are ~10,000 containers.

Barge? Pull it over the edge and worry about it later.

Depending on contents, some might float very well. Or even dissolve away. My dollar store salt-shakers (with salt) came from vietnam.

The top will be the lightest containers, so I’m guessing that’s where your 40 footer of ping pong balls is sitting.

Yes - that's kind of what I had in mind when I first suggested it. When containers fall of ships they often wash ashore on the UK coast. Even a container of motorbikes arrived in Cornwall recently... I'm presuming that only happens because they have some natural bouyancy.

If they don't tear when they hit the water (the metal is pretty thin) they should float shouldn't they? At 77 cubic meters and 30 tonnes their density is low enough, and they're generally watertight aren't they?

Tie heavy duty straps with a small float attached to it before you dump it over the side, then use a tug to pull it away.

I think you're severely overestimating the depth of the canal. I'm too lazy to look up the depth of the specific section where it's stuck, but some sections are just 20 something meters deep.

In other words, just deep enough for ships to come through with little wiggle room. Not as tight as the Panama Canal, but it's not much bigger.

Dumping things over the side, into the canal? That would rapidly block up the canal even worse.

The canal is only 24m deep.... one or two containers would essentially block it for most traffic.

Nature loves you!

Don't worry, there's a guy digging it out :)


The most impressive thing to me, reading this comment thread, is all the ways the situation could get worse.

Depending on the design and bulk heads ripping a hole in the hull can be an option. My father was a naval architect and did some work re-floating container ships and I know they did this on at least one occasion and got the ship up the west coast of Africa, past Spain and Portugal, and through the English Channel. They would have stopped earlier but the ship yards en route jacked up their prices because they assumed there was no other choice.

The interesting thing for me is going to be where that ship goes if they manage to re-float it.

If it is any indication, other ships are turning around and betting on the two weeks journey around Africa.

Imagine if one of those also gets stuck while turning around.

Helicopters are a thing.

And yeah, even completely empty with no fuel or ballast you will never see the bow out of the water like that. However it is more than capable of surviving being dragged along sand. It's just that they have nothing strong enough to drag it with.

Eventually someone will stake some anchors into the ground and use an industrial winch, but that's where hull design starts to suck - there's no good anchor points by which to pull it, so there'll need to be a large number of straps cradling the hull that are being pulled.

This was my though, winchers/dozers etc pulling back the angle it went in on a high tide. Of all the solutions suggested this seems the simplest and easiest materials.

For anchor points they could easily weld additional steel plates/rings at numerous points on the hull for a many lines spread out.

Maybe place some cables under the front section attached to airbags. It would not lift it off the sand but may help with downward pressure on the pull back + the excavator work.

Also cant you vibrate/aerate sand to make it have a liquid effect? Might help pressure but no idea how that could be done at scale required... winches and cable seems easy to access fast.

Just an order of magnitude viz-a-viz a winch:

-- the Ever Given has a mass of ~220,000 tons (2.2e8 kg)

-- let us very conservatively assume that it is a homogeneous block, 1/3rd of which is on sand, 2/3rds of which is on water

-- the Coulomb coefficient of friction for steel on sand is a very complex function of sand composition and size, but roughly it's about µ=0.5 and F=µR [1]

-- For the 2/3rds of the ship that are in the water assume that it moves frictionlessly in an inviscid liquid (not true at all else ships wouldn't have huge engines!)

-- You therefore need to apply a net tension of ≥0.3 x 0.5 x 2.2e8 ≈ 33 MN to a wire to have a remote chance in hell of accelerating the ship backwards

-- This is about twice the thrust of a Space Shuttle solid rocket booster at liftoff.

[1] https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/sandf1972/26/4/26_4_139...

The weight on sand equals the weight of the portion of the ship that has been raised above sea level by the collision. The bow appears to have been raised, but not the stern. The lift is by about 10% of the ships height (or less), so 5% on the average of the ships length. That cuts the above estimate by a factor of 6. The remaining required force could be provided by a number of winches of a pull of 1000 tons each operating from the opposite bank of the canal and pulling in the direction opposite to the ship. Tugs would then have to turn the ship straight as soon as it starts getting afloat.

How long do you think it would take to unload 20,000 40-foot containers via helicopter?

I'll start with my guess: A long time

You would probably need to be the US military. Once you have a setup onsite; helicopters, pilots, fuel, maintenance, crew to rig containers, you could rapidly unload the containers. Check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08K_aEajzNA

US Military is probably the only entity that could pull this off in a timely manner. At great cost of course...

Except the US Military has exactly zero helicopters capable of lifting anything that heavy.

Russian Military has: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mil_Mi-26

That's the one they've used to rescue downed US helicopters :)

Looks like your right. The US has: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikorsky_CH-53E_Super_Stallion... as its near equivalent with a external payload of 36,000 lb. The Russian helicopter carries 8000lbs more at 44,000lb, though Wikipedia doesn't say if this is an external or internal payload.

Looks like a 40ft shipping container weights around 8000lbs empty, couldn't find a stat on full. It seems such an operation would be outside the capacity of these helicopters. Sure they could comfortably lift empty containers, but probably not full ones.

Is there a chance the ship could tip over in some type of manouver, considering it's stuck both at the front and the back?

How it gets from bad to worse..

Realistic headline: As more of the bow and stern are freed from sand, ship suddenly lists and dumps 5000 containers into the canal.

Apparently, if you unload containers without sufficient care, there's even a chance the ship could break in half.

That would obviously be catastrophic.


>Some people have suggested unloading the ship. I don't think you realize the infrastructure required to unload a ship. You're basically asking to build a port in the middle of the egyptian desert. That isn't going to happen.

I think you just need a smaller crane ship to transfer the cargo e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auxiliary_crane_ship

Assuming the crane ship can even get into position to offload it.

The ship is stuck because the sides of the canal are quite shallow.

You are quite likely to get two stuck ships instead of one.

IMHO would take weeks to unload the cargo with something like that.

Yeah but you may not need to unload it completely. At some point as the buoyancy improves the tugs become more likely to pull it off.

"Some people have suggested unloading the ship. I don't think you realize the infrastructure required to unload a ship."

I would guess someone could figure out how to use a normal-ish crane to unload some of the containers and set them down in the sand. The top containers look like they are maybe 150 feet or so higher than ground level.

Even if so, now you've got a handful of containers on the sand and a giant ship stuck in the canal.

Sure. Just guessing that taking weight off of the end that's marooned in the sand might help.

Edit. Okay "ends".

> Just guessing that taking weight off of the end that's marooned in the sand might help.

It is crosswise and in the banks on both sides.

Ok, since everyone is sharing their solutions, and nobody named the most obvious one, I'll do it: just nuke it from orbit.

I'm at a seaside resort in Egypt so I could get a bucket and spade and head up there to dig it out. Might take a while though.

How about creating a mini-dam surrounding the vessel and raising the water level so it can turn.

Or stopping the current at 90% of the ship and letting it push to the front ( if it's in the right direction), perhaps in combination with gigantic sails ( if there's enough wind) and/or sucking sand/mud from the bottom.

Apparently, there are no watertight gates anywhere near.

Filling in the entire canal is unrealistic.

What if we could part the water at both sides of the ship? Would that suffice as makeshift gates?

The Egyptians had a bad experience with that in the past though and lost a lot of gear and many men in an incident. Might be understandable if they didn’t want to do that again.

Let me call moses, hold on.

Cofferdams could be viable

Relevant feedback on pro's/cons: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26587692

I'm not saying the entire canal. Surround the boat, make a dam somehow.

Concrete is dry in 24-48 hours. Sand and wooden poles could be enough.

Some ideas on the how, could be found in this video, on how they created a bridge in the middle ages: https://youtu.be/nJgD6gyi0Wk

I'm pretty sure engineers could find better/faster solutions than what I'm proposing.

The canal is 200 metres wide, 25ish metres deep. Gotta think in the cube, because now you're talking volume. I have zero idea what thickness you're going to need for your dam, but I'm going to spitball and say 10 metres at the top, and 30 metres at the bottom to get a slope like you'd see on something like the Hoover Dam.

This means you need to provide .. lets see, a trapezoidal cross section is 500 square metres.. 100,000 cubic metres of filler. Twice. And then you probably need to curve it to resist the pressure, so that's a bit of a lowball figure. You can't dam any less, because the ship is stuck sideways across the canal.

Using some old numbers for concrete pours in Ireland (2016 era) per cubic metre, that's 7.5 million Euro worth of concrete. Sure, you're not going to use pure concrete like that though - you'd probably start dropping massive boulders in first, and then try to cap/fill it.

Have a read of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_Islands to get a feel for how long it takes to lay in that much material..

And then you have to dig it all back up to reopen the canal.

160 km of protection against 2m. High waves to build something on unstable soil isn't exactly the same thing as this, is it.

They need some construction which they can add water faster than it escapes the container, to raise the water level.

If stacked water based cofferdams would be a solution ( idk depending on these requirements, current, ..), it could be done quickly if they have the bags ( multiple teams, multiple locations to start and filling the coffers with water as soon as possible). The budget to fix this fast is probably pretty high. A lot would depend on how much they need to raise the water for the pressure, so it wouldn't collapse. ( Fyi, i do think water based coffers would collapse, but perhaps sand ones can be placed in top on it for 1 meter).

Palm islands needed a construction that holds multiple years and isn't the same as the issue in the Suez canal.

Tu be honest, I'm just thinkering about the variables that could make this work, instead of dismissing it immediately.

> Using some old numbers for concrete pours in Ireland (2016 era) per cubic metre, that's 7.5 million Euro worth of concrete.

A sister comment mentioned 400$ million per hour worth of trades being blocked by this, so the cost of this would probably recouped by the time the order is cleared.

>A sister comment mentioned 400$ million per hour worth of trades being blocked by this

but it's not $400M lost? If you ordered a $100 package from amazon and it got stuck in transit it's not a $100 loss.

Not all. But there are late fees, refunds, profits lost because your ship now has to travel a larger route and can therefore take fewer roubdtrips, increasing costs per roundtrip due to the longer route etc.. If we just assume a meager 1% actual loss, the concrete would be worth it in two hours. Even with the remaining expenses due to work, this should pay for itself rather quickly.

Quite a lot of shipped goods have tight delivery schedules requirements.

There are fees associated with lateness.

So clearly we just need.to find some sand beavers.

Lot of heavy containers that aren’t being used at the moment.

How would you remove such a dam? Sounds like it'd take weeks to build and weeks to remove?

Cofferdam are temporarily dams.

Biggest issues seem to be building ( and logistics) + deconstructing. But i saw an estimate of a cofferdam for a bridge of 640 meters ( but less deep and with a single crane) of 16 days.

They need to give that canal some serious laxatives to flush that ship out. ;-]

But seriously, it looks like dredging or a king tide will be needed to get that ship flushed out of there.

Btw, it takes roughly 9-10 additional days to navigate a ship around the horn so ships would be better off steaming the long way around if time is critical.

The economic fallout will be big and it gets worse day by day. And we weren't exactly in the best shape to begin with...

Suez canal seems to be a Single Point of Failure.

Lloyd's List estimated that every day Suez is closed costs US$9 billion ($400 million per hour).

If it could be done technically and open up the canal, it would be cheaper for insurance companies to buy the ship, it's cargo, buy all nearby property and then blow the whole ship up.

That figure is for the value of goods that traverse the canal, not the closed cost. The canal generated 5.61 billion USD in 2020 [0] so it is costing them 15 million dollars a day in lost revenue.

For the shipping companies, they can still go around Africa and the cost of doing that is probably only a little higher than paying the toll as Egypt wants to extract as much money as they can without pricing it over the cost of going around Africa otherwise the shipping companies would just do that in the first place.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suez_Canal_Authority#:~:text=I....

I was wondering how far I'd have to scroll down this thread to get to the "does Egypt have any nukes?" solution.

I haven't spotted "now you have two problems" anywhere yet.

Nah but a US ICBM could be there in 30 min.

It makes you wonder if anyone has an old aircraft carrier they'd be willing to use as a battering ram. Try to hit it towards the bow to dislodge it.

And if that ram breaks you'll not just have a giant container ship stuck there, but a bloody aircraft carrier as well. :D

Clearly that's when you send in the next aircraft carrier.

You get two aircraft carriers ramming each end from different sides. Then if the aircraft carriers get stuck on the bank, ships can still pass in-between them.

Newport News Shipbuilding had the old Enterprise CVN 65. May be slightly contaminated.

Slice the containers into three pieces. Take each piece by helicopter. It would probably take a month.

With so many ships going through every day for decades it’s a wonder this never happened before.

We’ve had ships this big only for a few years.

In its simplest form, Murphy's Law states: If anything can go wrong, it will.

Which is what fraction of what the Fed is lending. Problem solved.

From orbit.

People think I'm joking but we should bomb it to smithereens. The crater would probably just fill up with the water flow.

Oregon tried that with a dead beached whale 50 years ago. Results hilarious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6CLumsir34

Not enough bomb :[

If this had gotten stuck in 1960s Russia they would have done that already.

And 70 years later the radiation levels would be getting back to normal.

Can use this to avoid radiation :] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Father_of_All_Bombs

Ironically, the blast radius of that thing is still smaller than the ship that would need to be blown up. If you really want to clear the canal with an explosion, it would have to be one large enough to vaporize the ship, making sure there's no debris in the canal afterwards.

How many tons of explosives would be required to "bomb it to smithereens" without leaving wreckage that blocks the canal? Please calculate and show your work.

This was my idea but I figured I’d get laughed out of the comments. Glad I’m not the only one considering it.

What would be the total loss cost of this ship?

less than the cost of the canal being blocked for multiple weeks

> Look at some of the photos of the front of it. Look at how far out of the water it is sitting.

I'm curious how much of this is hightide vs low. If the photo is taken at low tide you have about 1.7m drop on the stern which is going to make it look far more stuck. While if the photo is at high tide, wow.

> And what happens when that causes you to rip a hole into the hull of the ship?

I cant see sand friction ripping a hole in the steel unless there are rocks in the mix. I think the bigger risk is cracking the hull if there is too much weight at the front vs displacing this across the entire hull.

> I don't think you realize the infrastructure required to unload a ship.

To this, while absolutely it huge infrastructure Im assuming they only intends to reduce weight, not unload. So some crane choppers or whatever can make a big difference taking off 5% of containers type thing. I even wonder if they want to keep the back loaded to effectively life the front... but that might exacerbate the risk of hull breakage?

> It's really stuck. It's probably going to take a couple of weeks to get it unstuck.

My armchair engineering would dump a load of salt into the water to increase buoyancy of the ship long enough for the tugs to get some momentum with less effort than currently.

That would be my cheap try solution to help the tugs that have already hit there limit so why not change the physics and add a load of salt.

You could increase the buoyancy by something like 230 kilograms per cubic meter if you fully saturate it on a hot day, but I suppose you'd have to dam up both sides to keep the brine from washing away.

At this scale, even air pressure would be a factor, I'd presume a higher air pressure would be more conducive as large surface area of the water than the ship, though might be wrong.

Would that level of salinity be harmful once it reaches the sea?

Assuming you narrowly dam up the canal near the ship to contain the brine, no I don't think so. Seawater is 3% saline and saturated brine is 26% saline, so you'd probably have sufficient mixing within the canal itself once you open the dams. The canal is 120 miles long and I can't imagine you'd dam up more than a third of a mile at maximum. But it would take a whole hell of a lot of salt.

Yes since the salinity transfer from the canal into the Mediterranean Sea is already enough to make species from the Red Sea colonize the east Mediterranean. The Aswan dam reduced further the amount of freshwater coming to the area. So I would guess adding more salt wouldn’t be too good for the eastern Mediterranean.

And how much salt would you need? At least 100kg per m3. Assuming the canal is 250m wide you need a 400m section dammed and average depth is 15m then you need 150 thousand tonnes of salt. Thankfully Egypt produces more than 3 million tonnes of salt per year so just a few weeks worth of production and enough to fill a large bulk carrier ship.

I was thinking a few lorry loads on the edge they are trying to pull, just to give it a kick briefly so the tugs can get that initial momentum going. More of a brief sudden kick/change to give it that edge.

With that I don't think with the whole damming of aspect would be any better than damming of and pumping water in. Also with that scale you run the risk when you breach the dam of causing what I'd call a saline tsuanmi which might not work well for the ships in it's path and may well cause another to get stuck.

So, more a form of quick kick to aid in getting the tugs an initial bite and a quick dislodge, however small, would only help and may well tip the balance.

> a few lorry loads on the edge they are trying to pull

My intuition is that at the scale of ship, and the canal, “a few lorry loads” is not going to have any noticeable effect.

The ship weighs roughly 100,000 tons. I very large lorry might be five tons. Factor in the static friction of the ship's keel stuck in mud, and the suction opposing any movement.

For kick of initial momentum, I suggest nuclear weapons.

Actually, double that weight. The ship weighs well over 200,000 tons.

wouldn't too much salt damage the ship/make it rust?

You could unload it using crane ships, and just leave the containers in heaps on the bank of the river, but it could take weeks because that thing is filled to the brink. Any way you look at it there's not an easy solution in sight.


Though, to be fair, even the CEO of Flexport initially dismissed this, saying "I assume they'll have it fixed in a day or two. And anyways there's such a backlog of ships waiting to unload at the ports of arrival that it probably won't even impact the transit times of the cargo." https://twitter.com/typesfast/status/1374501965418352640

Unloading it may be exactly what happens (based on comments from the Dutch salvage company brought in to deal with the mess). And yeah, it's going to take weeks (best case scenario).

I'm not familiar with shipping, but I would guess there are some type of crane ships which could be dispatched along with barges to slowly offload some of the container. Obviously it is going to take some time mustering all these specialized craft and specialists on location.

What's with the many joucular/tounge-in-cheek posts on this thread..

In an emergency situation like this: could they not use helicopters to lift containers off of the ship and just stack them next to the canal until they've freed the ship?

Seems pretty quick to setup and do assuming there are helicopters that can move that weight.

Containers are 2 (20ft) or 4 (40ft) tonnes (roughly) unloaded.

And they can (if I remember right) contain 20 tonnes or so, of cargo.

Our current chinooks can handle 10 tonnes, and the old models could carry 4, if I recall.

And probably less in desert heat.

So helicopters will not be moving any containers

Can’t we just dig a new canal?

Theoretically, yes. Practically, removing this ship is faster and cheaper.

Crazy idea : Can we roll it into the water by pulling it over high strength rollers of some sort ? It would be pretty cool to use the same technique that was use to build the pyramids.

Sane answer: No.

The ship is 400 metres / 0.25 of a mile long. With containers, it weighs anywhere up to 199 thousand tons. One does not simply attach a few hundred cables, put some rollers under it, and pull with all the tractors you can find in Egypt.

Also, it's already in the water. It's just turned sideways and buried the bulb (by the looks) into the canal wall.

Since the sides of the channel are much more shallow than the middle, it's not floating in the water as both ends of the ship are stuck on the bottom.

Is it possible to weld a large steel wire onto the ship and use some sort of explosive to pull it out of the sand?

I’m thinking a complex series of pulleys and chains set up and attached to the Great Pyramids of Giza and then like a tooth tied to a string and door - attach the chains to some of Elon’s rockets and pull that ship loose.

At the level of [un]reality in many of the comments under OP, actually the Great Pyramids were built off-site and then dragged to their present locations.

> It would be pretty cool to use the same technique that was use to build the pyramids.

I'm not saying it was aliens, but... it was aliens.

Okay hear me out:

Somebody call Elon. Get the TBMs, and set them to work building a tunnel under the ship.

Now fill the tunnel with giant rubber bladders.

Call the Saudis and have them start shipping over helium. Fill the bladders with helium.

Okay, keep the saudis around and get them to bring over one of the high pressure water drilling rigs that they use for oil. Start digging out the sand above the bladders, and float them up to be UNDER the ship.

Okay now call the Dutch. Get them to bring over some MASSIVE water pumps and some damming equipment. The two guys on excavators can help. Dam up the canal on both sides of the ship, and pump out all the water.

The bladders become rollers. Roll that ship back into the middle of the canal.

Okay now repump the canal, and float the ship away. Bam. Done!

> Get them to bring over some MASSIVE water pumps and some damming equipment.

If you had this, then I would damn each side and pump water INTO that space. Raise water level, ship frees. Boom

Chicago1992 is standing by ready to donate air mattresses.

Apparently it wasn’t that hard after all. HackerNews people are not shipping experts.

But naively, I’d think you just need to apply the opposite force to the force that got it stuck. Surely that didn’t break the hull.

I think they've already tried that with tugboats, but it's really really stuck / wedged in.

Not saying it can work in this scenario, but I think salvagers have used pneumatic devices to float and or manoeuver derelict ships.

>Some people saying: just drag it off of the sand. Okay! And what happens when that causes you to rip a hole into the hull of the ship? Now it's really stuck.

Not just that, but don't forget the inertia. The moment the ship gets unstuck the force needed to get it moving, multiplied with the ship's huge mass would create such a huge momentum that it would be very hard to stop it from hitting the other shore with the stern.

The hull looks pretty tough but it's gonna be a job getting enough pull to drag the thing.

Couldn't we just place dynamite near the front and use the explosion to push the ship off the sand/rocks and back into the water?



> It's probably going to take a couple of weeks to get it unstuck.

You're an optimist, that's for sure.

Seems like the risk assessment wasn't good if hitting the bank results in this kind of outcome.

It is really pretty amazing that this hasn't happened with more frequency in the past.

Dumb question but what about heavy lift helicopters moving containers off 1 by 1?

There are 20,000 containers on the ship. Assuming you needed to remove 1/4 of those containers to get it to rise far enough to get off of the sand, you need to move 5000 containers.

Assume that it takes 5 minute to connect a bridle to a container, hook it to a helicopter, and move it...and then also assume that the helicopters can run 24/7 and never have to refuel, that they can hot swap in pilots, and that there is never a single problem, you're talking about 25000 minutes, or about 17 days of absolutely non stop running helicopters.

And that only gets you 1/4 of the containers, and it might not even work at all.

(It's not a dumb question, and I'm sure that it was already discussed by the team who is dealing with this. It's just that the scale of what is happening here is restrictive.)

Just a small correction: 20.000 TEU is not the same as the amount of containers. TEU is the number of twenty foot equivalent. There will be enough 40 foot containers on there. If it was going to Europe there will hardly be any empty containers.

Amount of actual containers is probably the 20.000 divided by 1.6 or so, though it's not a given that any vessel is fully loaded to max capacity. Sometimes need to deal with restrictions.

The weight is more of an issue. Heavy lift helis cannot lift a fully loaded 20ft container (weighing up to 67,000lbs), let alone a 40 footer.

"up to"

Those heavy ones would be evenly distributed in the bottom of the hold, down below the water line. Low-weight ones are on top, for ship stability.

You'd also need a helicopter than can lift containers that heavy, which might be a long shot.

We really are bad at dealing with large numbers. 20 000 does not seem that much when it’s just written that way. Even looking at the pictures, this is a lot of containers, but the efforts needed to get them out of that ship are hard to imagine.

Just going off "count the candy in the jar" math from this image: https://static.vesselfinder.net/ship-photo/9811000-353136000...?

It appears to be roughly 7 x 20 x 25 containers, or 3500... (height x width x length.)

EDIT: Freezing this video I got a better view of how it's stacked today. I'm sure this is imperfect, like I said trying to count candy in a jar. But I'm curious what the real number of containers is!


10 X 23 X 25 ~= 5750


Your height number is off by a factor of 2; a significant factor of container storage on these large container ships is below the deck. It isn't uncommon for these large ships to have 9 to 12 containers stacked on top of eachother before the stack reaches above the deck and becomes visible from the side.

The ship is 400 meters long, you can take off multiple containers in parallel along the ship. I'd guess 4 at once.


Don't forget that you need to put containers back. Same or more effort needed.

They don't have to put them back.

How many copters are you assuming?

Most heavy lift helicopters don't really go above 20 tons takeoff weight, while even a 20 foot container has a max allowable weight well above that. Most shipping containers will the 40 footers, so helicopters will probably be a no-go. There's also 20k of them so it would take quite a while.

That said, taking off some containers is a viable option but it'll probably have to wait for a crane ship to arrive.

The biggest choppers in the world can only lift about 20 tonnes. 20 foot containers max gross is 25 tonnes, and 40 foot containers even more.

Typically an empty 20 foot shipping container weighs between 1.8-2.2 metric tonnes (about 3,970 - 4,850 lb) and an empty 40 foot shipping container weighs 3.8 - 4.2 tonne (8,340 - 9,260 lb) depending on what kind of container it is. For example, high cube containers tend to be heavier.

Why would these containers be empty?

Yes, especially with the container shortage[1] reported earlier this week, I would be very surprised if empty containers are being sent away from where there already is a shortage.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26574077

They might be empty if it had been going the other way through the canal.

Based on the information on Wikipedia, it sounds like the ship could potentially hold more than 20,000 containers. Assuming I'm understanding the article correctly, that'd be a lot of containers to move 1-by-1.

If it's fully loaded, that'd be something like ten thousand 40' containers to move.

Hooking them up to a helicopter would be a slow, dangerous process as well.

It has 20,000 TEUs (twenty-foot-container-equivalent-units).

Weight-wise, the average container could be lifted with a military heavy lift helicopter: The ship carries 20,000 tons, i.e. 1 ton per TEU, and a CH-47F can lift 11 tons. Although a TEU can weigh up to 26 tons, so you couldn't lift the heaviest ones.

The problem is speed: A ship-to-shore crane at a properly equipped port can do a lift every 2 minutes. Ports can speed things up by lifting several TEUs in a single lift - but you'd also expect a helicopter to be slower, because we haven't put decades of optimisation into the process. So let's assume those cancel each other out.

If they can keep up that rate with a helicopter, and they operate 24 hours a day, it would take 28 days to unload the ship.

Why is everyone assuming that we can do only one container at once? The ship is long, at least few can be done in parallel.

Outside of Vietnam war movies, it's very unusual to see helicopters flying in close proximity.

I suppose it's possible you could find a bunch of pilots confident in cargo handling, landing on ships, and close formation flight all at once. Or that the ship is large enough the helicopters would practically be independent of one another?

Containers are apparently quite heavy. No helicopter currently in production can lift the weight of a fully loaded container on its own. https://www.aerotime.aero/27542-Could-helicopters-solve-the-...

It's a lot of containers.

You don't need to remove all of them? Just get it light enough to float it?

Removing 10% of containers by helicopter also would take unreasonable time, removing 1% of containers might be plausible but I don't think it would make enough of a difference to justify the risks.

Helicopters also have limited capacity. So it's not like you could pick up the heaviest first. Which brings back the issue of sheer quantity.

docker-compose down ?

it's a quarter mile long. You can probably have 10 helicopters working at once while still keeping safe distances.

Each helicopter has a crew of 4 on the boat and 4 on the shore. They hook 4 chains to the 4 corner hoists of each container. Say it takes 1 minutes per container to affix the chains, 1 minute to fly to the sand, 1 minute to unhitch, and 1 minute to fly back. Thats a lot slower than agricultural helicopters, but nobody will be very practiced with this yet, so it'll be slower.

The entire ship could be unloaded with this method in 5.5 days. Perhaps less if not all the cargo needs unloading.

The job could be half done by now...

You're joking, right? It's a quarter mile, or 400m long. Ten helicopters in it means ~40m distance. That's less than safe distance between cars in a highway.

You're assuming that the helicopters approach simultaneously instead of staggering themselves out.

The worlds highest capacity heavy lift chopper (M-26, of which there are 20 operational) has a max take off weight of 44k lbs. A standard 40 ft. container can be loaded to a gross weight of 66k lbs.

It takes a purpose built crane a few minutes to unload a container, so I sort of doubt a helicopter could make it happen faster.

Mi-26 has record of 56 tons lifted: https://www.fai.org/record/2174

Although I suspect you don't want to repeat that trick too many times without serious inspection/maintenance.

Well, 56 tons in cold Russia is not AT ALL the same thing as 56 tons in Egypt. Maybe if you wait for winter?

The Mi-26 is still in production, so you could replace them with brand new ones outright.

A quarter of a mile long is a huge ship. Damn. Never really got that until now.

Coincidentally a quarter of a mile (400m) is also the length of those oval tracks around soccer fields in Europe. we used to run on them a lot in PE back in high school.

Same in the US for the tracks surrounding football fields (and soccer fields too, for that matter).

It’s really tall as well. You can’t take any quickly assembled crane to unload that.

About the height of the empire state building

Or, depending on how quick it really is, it could take months. Its easy to arm-chair speculate.

There are helicopters that I think can be used for (un)loading containers:


Seems to have a max take off weight of 19 tons by the look of it. The heli itself weights about 9 of those tons already, which leaves 10 tons of leeway. Those containers, from what I've read around here, can be well above 30 tons each. So that sounds like a no go. Also, they built only 31 of those helis in total according to wikipedia.

Aha, OK, I didn't realize the copter itself was included in the 19 tons.

I also saw someone mentioning 40 feet containers weighing up to max 9000 lb (ca 4 tons), but not sure it is a relevant or applicable number.

And 20k containers. I guess they don't have to offload all of them, but still it is hard to imagine numbers this large.

Oh look! Everyone in these comments was way off. They dredged some sand and dragged it off - after days, not weeks.

I now wonder how regularly Gell-Mann Amnesia occurs for people on HN, really.

Love the armchair engineers who think they're gonna solve this better than billion dollar companies

It's a way of thinking out loud and providing an opening for someone more knowledgeable to explain what is being overlooked. It makes for interesting threads.

Cunningham's Law: "The best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question; it's to post the wrong answer."

> It makes for interesting threads.

The threads are not particularly interesting because people make the same suggestions over and over again.

So far I haven't really seen any other suggestions saying to cut the bolbous bow off. The ship can still sail without it.

That's the most obvious part of the grounding, but the ship is properly wedged at both ends. It's not the whole problem.

It's wedged at the stern because the bow impelled the ground. The stern isn't impelled, once the front of the ship is free, the back be easily ungrounded by tugs.

This is how every post and comment works on HN.

It's pretty great. I hope this serves as a lesson to some people

"If these jokers will talk this much about this even though they clearly know nothing at all about the tech involved, what does that say about their comments on all the other threads here?"

Also known as the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.

In that case... why don’t we get Elon Musk’s Submarine to get it out?

I bet they could hook up a bunch of Falcon-9's or Super Heavies to the ship and launch it into orbit.

That's a pay per view event waiting to happen.

It's hilariously arrogant too.

I feel like we need a "why don't you just?" safe word, where the intent is to signify "hey I'm not being a smartass, I'm really just curious about why this seemingly simple solution won't actually work".

So much of what happens on the internet is in bad faith that it makes it really hard to just have innocent conversations without being misunderstood. :-(

I try to replace any "I think..." and "Why don't they just..." comments with "I wonder if..." ones.

I've found it communicates my curiosity in a way that's less likely to be misinterpreted. It's made my internet/IRL conversations much more productive.

> So much of what happens on the internet is in bad faith

... and I have to admit I’m still not able to easily recognize the difference between bad faith and utter lack of experience and/or intelligence without digging deep into the history of the individual posting such “questions”.

And the need for that extra digging makes such questions effectively the same waste of time and emotional energy as responding to a troll.

Same. It's super easy to know when I am communicating in good faith, but it's not so trivial to know when you are.

You know those scenes in the movies where two characters circle around each other giving the side eye like "so are you fucking with me or are we cool?"

Twitter in particular feels like a whole site of people doing that. :)

You don’t need to do the digging if you follow the rules of the site, which include interpreting others’ comments as charitably as possible.

Agreed. I’ve thought the same for posting an interesting fact. Anymore, I want to preface every single one by saying, “hey, you may already know this; I’m just sharing it because it hasn’t been mentioned yet and I think it’s neat. If you were implying the fact already, I apologize for overlooking that.”

Why dont you just coin a new phrase? Perhaps it'll stick.

I've actually seen literal quotes before, e.g. a question like:

"Why don't you just" get a bunch of people on rafts and row real fast to push it off?

Because if it doesn’t stick, everyone else will just think you’re annoying (like the “fetch” girl in Mean Girls).

"Why is the following wrong:"

"What's the problem with"

"What's the problem with training every pigeon in the world to grab on and fly it out of there?"

"Why is the following wrong: They could get a shitload of muskrats and have them dig out the banks?"

Etc. Suggestions made obviously ridiculous.

What do you think people at "billion dollar companies" do in such situation?

Exactly the same thing. Just not on a public board. Just like everyone else is doing when discussing problems they face in any line of work.

Since it's unlikely anyone here has any decision making power relevant to the Suez canal, look at this discussion as an exercise in group problem solving. Sharpening the saw.

> Exactly the same thing.

Not exactly-exactly. There are (e.g.) 1000 suggested solutions.

950/1000 of them are silly, stupid, impossible, -facepalm-, etc.

25/1000 are doable.

10/25 are doable and cost less than the other 25

5/10 are faster than others

2/5 are actively being investigated, and of course they won't be announced to 'us'. They (thinkers/engineers/specialists) will have to talk to their CEOs/COOs/CFOs, insurance companies, Egypt's military, handlersof the canal, and a bunch of other key stakeholders.

(my ratios are pure guesstimates, but it makes sense that there is a selection process, and we won't figure them out from our couches)

And some that are doable will not be safe enough.

Maybe but maybe not.

Like the parent comment said, it’s a way of thinking out loud.

For e.g., when someone says “just dig it out, it just pull it away...”, I give them a benefit of doubt by assuming what they are really saying is “I know it’s not as simple as just pulling it out but can someone explain why we can’t though?”

It always amuses me how much specialists in one field think that their expert status is transferable to other fields.

I think its that when you know something really well, you feel like you're in control. When you have a new problem, that emotion doesn't go away...

> armchair engineers who think they're gonna solve this better than billion dollar companies

There are 2 types of armchair engineers.

The ones who sneer and say, "If they just <x> then it would be fixed because I know best" Those people are bores.

There are others who are just tossing ideas around: partly for amusement and partly because they enjoy thinking, "What would I do in this situation ...?"

I haven't seen too many bores in this thread.

I don't think this latter group _seriously_ thinks they know better than experts, and I have found the various ideas and counterarguments interesting to read.

and... and... what?

Sorry, I was typing 1/2-thoughts & talking to someone. I deleted the sentence fragment.

We have the luxury of just throwing around ideas and not caring about the consequences (because nobody in power will read it). It's just fun to think about how you'd solve a problem like this.

For example I'd try to attach a two Raptor engines to the ship and blow it back to the water :)

Or tear the ship apart :). Which makes me think - why not cut the ship in half? Two pieces will be easier to dislodge and tow away :).

Someone actually is trying that idea in Georgia right now (https://www.thedrive.com/news/34648/capsized-cargo-ship-in-g...) but it really is not easy!

Many likely problems: equipment avilability to do so, time it will take, debris falling off and from the operations, risk of capsizing, probably need to load pieces on barges/crane but canal is not much large

in half? I would not go for less than nine pieces.


What a fascinating watch! That they were able to produce such clean cuts through the entire ship with the cutting wire is absolutely incredible.

The salvage company hired to fix this problem is probably just reading this thread and nodding along like yeah that could work. Great idea HN!

Congrats! You've discovered that engineers like to stretch their imaginations and theorize about solutions to problems for their own fun and enjoyment

Detonate a small but still relatively powerful bomb upstream (or maybe multiple small but staggered ones), to create a small tsunami-like wave, which in turn will move at least the ship's aft/stern (as the ship creates in the canal a "V"-like shape which will therefore concentrate most of the wave's force in that area) when it hits it. Almost guaranteed to work, theoretically.

Or more likely, it will break the hull apart and then there are 5000 containers stuck in the bottom of the canal.

IIRC the banks of the canal aren't very high above the water level.

Raising the banks for say 1/2 mile on either end of the ship might not be impossible? Maybe?

Billion dollar companies are filled with people. Nothing special about billion dollar companies except money. I wish money equated to great ideas.

Outfits like SMIT also have a lot of experience with this kind of thing, plus some equipment.

Just let the air out of the tires, simple.

Just bring in a Bagger 288[1] and use it to excavate a new diversion canal in front of the ship long enough to get it out of the main canal, bada-bing bada-boom. Simple!

[1]Obligatory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azEvfD4C6ow

That beast is really outstanding and would probably be able to do the job in reasonable time. This machine is so insanely large, it would fit into any sci-fi movie. The craziest thing is, some years back it was driven over a distance of 22 kilometers cross country to a different site, which was just mindblowing.

Put balloons around it to give extra buoyancy. That should work.

That actually is something that you can do in smaller salvage operations. The technical word for these balloons is lift bag.

I searched for the biggest ones I could find this week and it was something like several tons. So we only need about 10 thousand of them.

And the key words are "smaller salvage operations".

Or with crabs, potc style! /s

Why don't they just give me a long enough lever so I can simply lift the ship out of the canal?

Put huge hydraulic cylinders below the ship. The obvious problem is, what are those cylinders anchored to?

but did they try turning it off and on again?

The canal or the ship?

Maybe if you kill the ship it respawns at its port of origin?

Proposing ideas shouldn’t be taken as suggesting that the poster is confident the ideas are correct, but rather as an invitation to talk through whether it would work and maybe learn something interesting.

So you are complaining that on a startup forum people are trying to solve billion dollar questions?

Besides, billion dollar companies often miss things. Yes, they have the more relevant experts and much better data than we, but they have to content with internal and external politics and have fewer people throwing around ideas. Sometimes the answer is to "why haven't you done X" is simply "nobody with a voice to be heard had that idea". If billion dollar companies were the infallible giants you make them out to be then startups straight up couldn't work.

Yes, most here are armchair engineers, though quite a few actual engineers around, so you never know. But the embarassing point is: the billion dollar companies currently also don't seem to have an idea about the possible solution :p. I am pretty optimistic that they will come up with a reasonable plan soon, but there is a nonzero chance that someone here will come up with a good idea. Sometimes it quite helps to be at a distance.

I assume you're The Person that Googles the answer to every discussion you have with your friends rather than having a little fun with it.

That's how a lot of billion dollar companies got started.

If this was space engineers I would build a crane drone and offload it unto nearby ships. Or build giant trucks to help the ship get unstuck.

Or just tow it outside the environment...

> Or just tow it outside the environment...

For those who haven't seen this video... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3m5qxZm_JqM

Where is Elon when you need him?

He just offered to build them a little submarine

I don't think Musk will give unsolicited help to anyone ever again, after the spectacular form of gratitude the underwater capsule was received with.

That ship is never going to fit in that submarine.

How many Raptor engines would we need here?...

Why didn't anyone think of this before? Internet commenting is over folks. This guy realised its not productive.

I think there's still room for suggesting potential solutions that might work, even if they make the operation of the cargo ship (even more?) unprofitable for its owners.

That said, the ones mentioned there don't pass the smell test.

It's entertaining. I think a big winch or two to drag it off.

That's what some scientists said about mRNA research


Or what?

...or 24h * 7d * 2w * 400 million = 134 billion USD.

Sounds like a lot of money, if GP's right?

NB: 400M is the normal throughput, not the loss while closed. It would only be the total loss while closed if all those goods somehow vanished.

Well, there's always the option of just demolishing the ship and its cargo, getting everything out of the canal without worrying about whether any of it survives the process.

That would still be expensive, but is it more expensive than blocking the canal?

How do you destroy a 1300 ft ship with 20k+ TEUs of cargo on it? How do you then clean all of the debris out of a pretty narrow and shallow canal so that other ships can go through again?

I can't imagine that being a very quick thing to do.

Call the Israelis, they have nukes. Obviously, Suez needs to be made deeper and wider at this point anyway

You joke, but this isn’t the first time someone’s considered nuking Egypt’s desert to build a canal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8t3X7tUTk5o

I came to this purely to do a CTRL+F "explosion" and was dismayed to see all the comments proposing it voted down, whereas comments proposing things like balloons being used to lift the boat were not voted down.

Clearly demolition is one of the things to consider in this scenario, and is at least as realistic as the million-luftballons. It would also make for some fun conversation.

>How do you destroy a 1300 ft ship with 20k+ TEUs of cargo on it?

A smaller less stuck ship or barge you don't care very much about full of explosives.

And you don't need to destroy the whole thing, just shred and distribute the part that's in the canal enough that it's no longer an impediment to navigation. Sure you might be left with 30 big chunks but 30 big chunks can be picked up with conventional marine construction equipment. If the bulbous bow is still buried in the sand then whatever, you don't care.

We're talking about a Mont-Blanc sized explosion here. Definitively messy but with modern engineering I think you could whip up a directed blast that ensures the task is accomplished without unnecessarily digging a hole or some other dumb side effect.

It's still easier to dislodge a giant ship in one piece than it is to remove one giant ship's worth of random metal shrapnel from a narrow, shallow canal.

Who said anything about shrapnel? There's another comment in the thread making the case that "we don't want to just tug harder on the boat, because that might tear a hole in the hull". That could destroy the boat, but... so what?

Because if you destroy the boat and it sinks that will make the passage unusable for a long time? I mean currently it seems possible to drag the ship out of this problem but if it's no longer floating you might need to start sawing it into pieces like this example of the sunken Tricolor https://youtu.be/0ENOJBLVgjw . That will take months and will have a serious global economic impact.

> That could destroy the boat, but... so what?

Because then you'd still have to remove everything, but now you don't have one big, controllable system, but you have lots of pieces that will move in unpredictable ways.

The canal is shallow and narrow, and gravity isn't working in your favor here. A ship has a natural tendency to float (even if it currently isn't). Pieces of debris don't. You will have to remove all pieces that break off, one-by-one.

Before destroying the ship you would need to pump out all the fuel which can take a very long time in itself

Why not just CUT IT APART and clean up the mess after?

Like this: https://jalopnik.com/a-chain-just-cut-through-a-capsized-car...

Because that would take months; they'd have to unload it, pump out the oil and fuel, get a disassembly crew and a ton of gear and all the infrastructure around it, etc.

Then why not just BLOW IT UP?

>You're basically asking to build a port in the middle of the egyptian desert.

No. Helicopters. 10 helis, 1 container/sortie, 10 sorties/hour = 10000 containers in 5 days.

You can't possibly have 10 helis safely unloading cargo at once from a single ship, that'd be an invitation for disaster. Also, doing that in the dark would simply not work. 10 sorties/hour is also unrealistic; with proper cranes and infrastructure at port it would take something like 10 minutes, with choppers it would take more time.

IMHO if helis would even work (which is debatable and debated here), the optimistic estimate is that you could unload something like 20 containers per hour, 300 containers per day, so 30 days for the cargo. It seems plausible that you can dredge the banks and drag the ship out much quicker than that.

>You can't possibly have 10 helis safely unloading cargo at once from a single ship

5 loading at a time, while the other 5 unloading on the ground - plenty of space as ship is 1300 feet long.

> doing that in the dark would simply not work

you flood the ship and the space around with light. Almost 30 years ago we did a night ship unload at an unprepared location - no issues.

>10 sorties/hour is also unrealistic

doing it with crane we did about 15+ - we weren't union operation though - we were paid for performance, not time :) and being young we were moving fast. With chopper not much different if weather is ok.

> 10 helis, 20tons each, 10 sorties/hour = 200k ton in 5 days.

Among the many problems with this calculation is that shipping containers can't be freely subdivided and recombined, and can have a loaded weight over 30 tons.

EDIT: And to address the crossing edit:

> 10 helis, 1 container/sortie, 10 sorties/hour = 10000 containers in 5 days.

...and the heaviest-lift helicopters can't lift 30 tons.

One would expect lightest containers on top, heaviest at the bottom. CH53 can lift 15ton, so probably it can unload several top layers.

Just set up a ski lift-like structure on both sides of a canal, and run it with containers instead of skiers

This ship thing is a perfect metaphor for the current US government.

Military does it all the time with helicopters. Not cheap or easy but probably the most likely outcome

Dumb question: How about evacuating and then blowing up the ship?

Yes, the loss of the ship and all its cargo will be immense, but that seems to be dwarfed by the damage the blocked canal causes.

Then how do you clean up 220,000 tons of debris?

Turns out: the container ship __itself__ is the easiest way to move all of that debris out. And its already packed and loaded.

I mean, the 220,000 tons of debris are at least not a single solid object - so maybe they'd be moved by the current (if there is any) or could be pushed to the sides by smaller vessels. Then the actual cleanup can happen while the canal is already back in operation.

> the container ship __itself__ is the easiest way to move all of that debris out.

Well, evidently not if it is stuck.

You'd need a nuclear-level explosion to blow this ship up into small, practically movable pieces that aren't connected anymore. Everything on that ship is steel. Conventional explosions would just blow a few holes in it, and deform everything enough that moving things becomes impossible.

> You'd need a nuclear-level explosion


...I mean, come on. After the last five years, it wouldn't even be the craziest thing to happen.

I admit, fallout could be a problem though, especially with all the other ships in close proximity.


A nuclear explosion probably would damage the canal itself. But its said that USS LSM-60's pieces were never found again...


Just 170 yards away was USS Arkansas, a battleship. The hull mostly survived (though was deformed and melted).

Build a huge cover all around the ship, plant the nuke under the keel, boom we have a splash and the ship evaporates , canal is deeper and wider there