“The second pilot tried to cancel the order, and more angry words were exchanged.”
“Captain Kanthavel reacted as anyone might in the same situation. “Shit!” he screamed.”
By Kit Chellel (Boomberg) Captain Krishnan Kanthavel watched the sun rise over the Red Sea through a dusty haze. Winds of more than 40 mph, whipping off the Egyptian desert, had turned the sky an anemic yellow. From his viewpoint on the bridge, it was just possible to see the dark outlines of the 19 other vessels anchored in Suez Bay, waiting for their turn to enter the narrow channel snaking inland toward the Mediterranean.
Kanthavel’s container vessel was scheduled to be the 13th ship traveling north through the Suez Canal on March 23, 2021. His was one of the largest in the queue. It was also one of the newest and most valuable, only a few years out of the shipyard. Ever Given, the name painted in block letters on its stern, stood out in crisp white against the forest-green hull. Soon after daybreak, a small craft approached, carrying the local pilots who’d guide the ship during its 12-hour journey between the seas.
Transiting the Suez Canal is sometimes nerve-racking. The channel saves a three-week detour around Africa, but it’s narrow, about 200 meters (656 feet) wide in parts, and just 24 meters deep. Modern ships, by contrast, are massive and getting bigger. The Ever Given is 400 meters from bow to stern and nearly 60 meters across—most of the width of a Manhattan city block, and almost as long as the Empire State Building is high. En route from Malaysia to the Netherlands, it was loaded with about 17,600 brightly colored containers. Its keel would be only a few meters from the canal bottom. That didn’t leave much room for error.
After climbing aboard, the two Egyptian pilots were led up to the bridge to meet the captain, officers, and helmsmen, all of them Indian, like the rest of the crew…
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