Excavator Operator Reflects on Suez Canal Job

Abdullah Abdul-Gawad worked nearly non-stop for days to help dislodge the Ever Given container ship and restore traffic flow to the Suez Canal

Excavator Operator Reflects on Suez Canal Job

(Photo by Suez Canal Authority)

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Abdullah Abdul-Gawad had a close-up view of the incident last month when a large container ship became lodged in the Suez Canal, putting a halt to any travel through it for several days. Abdul-Gawad was an excavator operator who worked long hours, gradually digging around the ship to try to set it free.

“We need you to get in a car and come right now because you’re the only excavator driver who’s close enough,” Abdul-Gawad told Insider recently about the directive he received after the Ever Given container ship became stuck on March 23, blocking travel through the canal.

To get close to the base of the ship, Abdul-Gawad built a “bridge” from rubble he dug up. It was a dangerous situation. He told Insider that he was worried about destabilizing the ship and having it topple onto him.

“I was terrified that the ship might list too far to one side or the other. Because if it fell onto its side on me, then it’s goodbye me and goodbye excavator. If you see the size of the ship and see the size of the excavator, it is absolutely terrifying.”

Two more excavators arrived at the scene a couple of days in, but their operators didn’t get as close as Abdul-Gawad, instead clearing away the materials near the base that Abdul-Gawad dug out. He would dig for hours, then occasionally get a signal to retreat via walkie-talkie so that tugboats could make an attempt to pull the ship. 

“But until I got 5, 6 meters down, there was no movement,” he told Insider.

Abdul-Gawad and his colleagues took brief moments of rest in barracks used by border guards working nearby. At most, he said they got about three hours of sleep a night.

On March 25, a specialized dredger boat got involved. Abdul-Gaward’s role was to shift rock and sand material from the ship’s bow while the dredger boat dislodged the silt from the canal bed. Those efforts, along with the help of a high tide, showed promise and the Ever Given was finally freed on March 29.

“We had been stretched to our limit,” Abdul-Gaward told Insider. “As tired and exhausted as we were, the minute we saw the ship sailing off, it was like the tiredness evaporated, because of such a sense of achievement.”

Source: Insider


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