Traffic in Suez Canal resumes after stranded ship refloated

ISMAILIA, Egypt (Reuters) – Shipping was on the move again late on Monday in Egypt’s Suez Canal after a giant container ship which had been blocking the busy waterway for almost a week was refloated, with more than 400 ships waiting to pass through.

A marine source told Reuters that vessels were travelling southwards towards the Red Sea after the 400-metre (430-yard) long vessel Ever Given was freed undamaged earlier on Monday.

Egypt’s Leth Agencies said 43 vessels had resumed transit from the Great Bitter Lake, which separates two sections of the canal.

“The ship came out intact and it has no problems. We’ve just searched the bottom and soil of the Suez Canal and thankfully it is sound and has no issues, and ships will pass through it today,” the Suez Canal Authority’s (SCA) chairman Osama Rabie earlier told Nile TV.

The Ever Given had become jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal in high winds early last Tuesday, halting traffic on the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.

Early on Monday rescue workers from the SCA working with a team from Dutch firm Smit Salvage partially refloated the ship and straightened it in the canal. After several hours it shifted briefly back across the canal before being manoeuvred free by tugs as the tide changed, a canal source said.

“The time pressure to complete this operation was evident and unprecedented,” said Peter Berdowski, CEO of Smit Salvage owner Boskalis, after the Ever Given was refloated.

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The company said approximately 30,000 cubic metres of sand had to be dredged to refloat the 224,000-ton container ship and a total of 11 tugs and two powerful sea tugs were used to pull the ship free.

Evergreen Line, which is leasing the Ever Given, confirmed the ship had been successfully refloated and said it would be repositioned in a lake that sits between two sections of the canal and inspected for seaworthiness.

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), the technical managers of the container ship, said there were no reports of pollution or cargo damage.

QUEUE

At least 400 vessels are waiting to transit the canal, including dozens of container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vessels, Nile TV reported.

The authority said earlier it would be able to accelerate convoys through the canal once the Ever Given was freed. “We will not waste one second,” Rabie told Egyptian state TV.

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He said it could take up to three days to clear the backlog, and a canal source said more than 100 ships would be able to enter the channel daily. Shipping group Maersk said the knock-on disruptions to global shipping could take weeks or months to unravel.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who had not publicly commented on the blockage, said Egypt had ended the crisis and assured resumption of trade through the canal.

Oil prices were more than 1 percent lower at $63.85 a barrel after the ship was refloated. Shares of Taiwan-listed Evergreen Marine Corp had closed 1.75% higher.

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About 15% of world shipping traffic transits the Suez Canal, which is an important source of foreign currency revenue for Egypt. The stoppage was costing the canal $14-15 million a day.

Shipping rates for oil product tankers nearly doubled after the ship became stranded, and the blockage has disrupted global supply chains, threatening costly delays for companies already dealing with COVID-19 restrictions.

Maersk was among shippers rerouting cargoes around the Cape of Good Hope, adding up to two weeks to journeys and extra fuel costs.

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