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Traffic in Suez Canal resumes after stranded ship refloated

AFRICA
By Reuters | March 30th 2021
The ship was successfully re-floated at 4.30 am local time. [Suez Canal Authority/Handout via Reuters]

Shipping was on the move again late on Monday in Egypt’s Suez Canal after tugs refloated a giant container ship that had been blocking the channel for almost a week, causing a huge build-up of vessels around the waterway.

With the 400-metre-long (430-yard) Ever Given dislodged, 113 ships were expected to transit the canal in both directions by early Tuesday morning, Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chairman Osama Rabie told reporters.

He said a backlog of 422 ships could be cleared in about three days.

The Ever Given had become jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal which is the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia, in high winds early on March 23.

Evergreen Line, which is leasing the Ever Given, said the ship would be inspected for seaworthiness in the Great Bitter Lake, which separates two sections of the canal.

“The ship was ready for limited navigation after an initial inspection and not a single container was damaged, but a second investigation will be more precise and if it was affected it will show,” Rabie said.

At dawn on Monday, rescue workers from the SCA working with a team from a 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.

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

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

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

Rabie said that within four days, traffic would return to normal. “We’ll work day and night to end the backlog.”

 

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