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Cargo ship finally gets free from Mexican sandbar

After 75 days stranded on a sandbar just outside Ensenada, 60 miles south of San Diego, the ship APL Panama was finally put afloat on March 10 and towed within two miles of the cove of Ensenada, in front of All Saints Island. The ship ran aground last Christmas.

The Mexican Environmental Protection Agency and the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation will keep the vessel just outside the port for inspection and damage evaluation.

As it finally floated free, the APL Panama lacked the ability to maneuver, and the only way it could be moved was with tugs.

Putting the ship afloat was not easy as a 400 meter long, 40 meter wide canal had to be dredged by the specialist company, Jan de Nul (which is now being sued by environmental authorities). Two hydraulic pistons, with the power to move 300 tons, were placed onboard, and the early dawn high tide finally helped float it.

At the time of its salvage, the ship still had 500 containers on board, many of which had been destined for Mexican manufacturers.

It is clear repairs will not be carried out in Mexico, since there is apparently no dry dock in Mexico to fit the size of this ship.

One condition Mexican authorities insisted upon was that after liberating the APL Panama, the affected beach had go back to its original shape — though it is now clear that the dredged canal is irreversible.

The ship had been bound for Manzanillo carrying thousands of containers. Its sand barring caused severe disruptions in the supply chain efficiency of dozens of companies as it carried assembly components for automotive companies such as Nissan, General Motors, Ford and Trouper. As reported last month, Nissan was forced to actually suspend production in Mexico for several days due to a lack of supplies.

The accident is considered to be a freak. Its causes remain a mystery because, as a local Ensenada tuna ship operator put it, "Not even the whales get near that sand bar."

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