So amateur engineers around the world are likely to be debating what to do now. A strategy was also discussed, which at first sounds completely absurd: the use of helicopters. In fact, employees of the Egyptian canal authority are said to have speculated about this possibility. In this way, one could gradually unload the ship’s cargo. By reducing the weight, it may be possible that the giant container can be pulled from the bottom more easily.
In principle, such missions have already been carried out. When the 180-meter-long container ship “Kea Trader” ran onto a reef in 2017, Sikorsky Skycrane helicopters were later used to retrieve the containers.
Suction dredger and ballast water
Experts usually rely on a three-stage strategy for such accidents: a combination of excavators, the use of tugs and, if necessary, weight reduction.
Unloading the cargo
But even these two steps are associated with enormous effort and not without risk. First of all, a stability calculation is made, because you cannot simply take any water and fuel and lighten the ship below while heavy containers are on top. In the worst case, it could tip over, so water and fuel must be drained evenly from the various tanks.
The next option is to unload the load evenly and gradually. With floating cranes, however, that would be a complex operation, because first they would have to be brought close enough to the ship and large enough to reach the topmost container. Here, too, it is questionable how quickly the appropriate device can be brought to Suez.
Special ships that are needed for the construction of offshore wind turbines can possibly be used here. But unloading the containers is not easy either. Because a ship cannot simply be unloaded from one side; there is a risk that it will be unbalanced. The load must be removed evenly.
The ship ultimately had to be lightened by more than 6,500 tons, 250 tons of which were fuel. Back then, suction dredgers removed 45,000 cubic meters of sediment before the ship could be towed free by twelve tugs. The action lasted almost nine days at the time.