The story of the large container ship Ever Given clogging up the Suez Canal has captivated the internet and I am also very much into it. This is, in many ways, a catastrophe with reverberations for countless people. Also, no one died. It’s a catastrophe with no death toll or any injuries. Just one tiny excavator. And the video from Vessel Tracker of the Ever Given crashing is fascinating.
What’s actually happening here? To someone who has dealt with cars and grip you can sort of see an overcorrection to something like oversteer, though a lot more is going on under the water.
The trouble starts around 0:10. The ship is moving north, with westerly winds — they are coming from the ship’s left, pushing it to the right. To compensate, the ship has adjusted its heading to the left, into the wind, to make sure the combination of screw and wind continue to push it at the correct bearing, towards the Mediterranean. Sometimes in a boat, if you are getting pushed right, you need to head left to go straight. Then, around 0:14, the ship lurches left, into the wind.
Lataire thinks there might have been not a gust, but a temporary lull, meaning the Ever Given was overadjusted to its left, moved to the left, and its beamy hull began to hug the windward bank. Then everything happens quickly, in a way that looks a lot like the bank effect. Bow shoots away from the bank. Stern continues to hug the bank and move north. Ship spins. Bow bulb punches through the riprap.
That seems right.
So how do you fix it? Below is a very lengthy explanation from Captain John Conrad of gCaptain. I’m not expert in this so I have no idea how to judge the merits of it, but it’s a great conversation:
The world of transportation is a complex place and the deeper you get the more complex it gets, but also the more fascinating.