Suez Canal Authority says stranded ship partially refloated

Published March 29, 2021
A view shows the container ship Ever Given, one of the world's largest container ships, in Suez Canal on March 29. — Reuters
A view shows the container ship Ever Given, one of the world's largest container ships, in Suez Canal on March 29. — Reuters

A massive container ship blocking Egypt's Suez Canal for nearly a week has been partially refloated, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said, raising hopes the busy waterway will soon be reopened.

The 400 metre-long Ever Given became jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal in high winds early last Tuesday, halting shipping traffic on the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.

After further dredging and excavation over the weekend, efforts by rescue workers from the SCA and a team from Dutch firm Smit Salvage worked to free the ship using tug boats in the early hours of Monday, two marine and shipping sources said.

The SCA said Ever Given has been straightened in the canal and further tugging operations would resume once the tide rises later on Monday. Marine traffic through the canal will resume once the ship is directed to the Great Lakes area, a wider section of the canal, it added.

Video posted on social media appeared to show the ship had swung around, opening space in the canal. Other footage, which could not be immediately verified by Reuters, included cheering and ships' horns sounding in celebration.

At least 369 vessels were 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, SCA Chairman Osama Rabie said.

The ship's technical manager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

The Suez Canal salvage teams had intensified excavation and dredging on Sunday and were hoping a high tide would help them dislodge the ship.

Crude oil prices fell after news the ship had been re-floated, with Brent crude down by $1 per barrel to $63.67. Shares of Taiwan-listed Evergreen Marine Corp — the vessel's lessor — rose 3.3 per cent.

About 15pc of world shipping traffic transits the Suez Canal, which is a key source of foreign currency revenue for Egypt. The current stoppage is 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.

Some shippers had decided to reroute their cargoes around the Cape of Good Hope, adding about two weeks to journeys and extra fuel costs.

A note from AP Moeller Maersk seen by Reuters said it had so far redirected 15 vessels around the Cape after calculating that the journey would be equal to the current delay of sailing to Suez and queuing.

The SCA has said it can accelerate convoys through the canal once the Ever Given is freed.

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