Suez Canal blocked by traffic jam after massive container ship runs aground
Eight tug boats are working to free a large container ship stuck in Egypt’s Suez Canal, halting marine traffic through one of the busiest and most important waterways in the world.
The rescue boats are working to float and free the Ever Given, a 59-meter-wide (193.5-feet) vessel that ran aground after 40-knot winds and a sandstorm caused low visibility and poor navigation, the Suez Canal Authority said in a statement Wednesday.
The 224,000-ton vessel, sailing under a Panama flag, was en route to the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands when it was knocked off course. The ship — which at 400 meters is as long as the Empire State Building is tall — is wedged across the vital trade passage at the canal’s 151-kilometer (94-mile) mark, the vessel’s operating company said in a statement.
The container ship entered the crucial East-West trade route on Tuesday morning and ran in to trouble when it was approximately 6 nautical miles from the southern end of the estuary, Evergreen Marine said.
Tanker Trackers, which monitors vessels through satellite and maritime data, said the incident had caused tailbacks of other vessels nearby. “Tankers carrying Saudi, Russian, Omani and US oil are waiting on both ends,” it said.
An Egyptian official warned Wednesday it could take at least two days to clear the ship.
The Ever Given was transiting northfrom the Red Sea to the Mediterranean when it ran into trouble at about 7.40 a.m. (1.40 a.m. ET) after the ship suffered a blackout, Reuters reported citing port agents GAC.
GAC said on its website 15 other vessels in a northbound convoy behind the ship have been held at anchorages while the canal is cleared. A southbound convoy is also blocked, it said.
Nearly 19,000 ships, or an average of 51.5 ships per day, with a net tonnage of 1.17 billion tonnes passed through the canal during 2020, according to the Suez Canal Authority.
This satellite image from Planet Labs Inc. shows the cargo ship lodged across the waterway.
About 12% of the world trade volume passes through the man-made canal, which is a major source of hard currency for Egypt.
“This can have impact on freight very much. If it lasts longer, it can lead to shipment delays both ways,” said a Singapore-based ship broker.
The impact on oil and gas flows will depend on how long it takes to clear the container ship, industry sources said.
Lt. Gen. Ossama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority, second right, speaks to other staff onboard a boat near the stricken cargo ship.
“If it extends to, say, weeks it will of course disrupt all shipping in a major way,” said Ashok Sharma, managing director of Singapore-based shipbroker BRS Baxi.
“But I think there should be sufficient resources available and pretty much in close proximity to deal with the situation quickly, in days rather than weeks,” Sharma said.
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