A huge container ship that has been stuck in the Suez Canal for nearly a week has been released, authorities said on Monday.
Workers successfully freed the MV Ever Given earlier, according to the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) and service provider Leth Agencies.
The vessel, which is the size of the Empire State Building in New York, had brought the world's most important trade route to a grinding halt.
Backlogged traffic has already begun to pass through the canal again, the chairman of the SCA, Osama Rabie, confirmed on Monday evening.
"Navigation has returned in both directions starting from 6 p.m. (1600 GMT/UTC)," Rabie said.
The first three ships to make it through the canal were vessels carrying live cattle, he said. He added that 113 ships were scheduled to pass through by 8 a.m. local time on Tuesday.
According to the SCA, around 370 ships had been waiting for passage on both sides of the canal, including 25 oil tankers.
Evergreen Line, which is leasing the Ever Given, said it would be inspected for seaworthiness and that decisions regarding the vessel's cargo would be made after the inspection.
But the ship's managers said initial checks indicated that it was in good shape.
"There have been no reports of pollution or cargo damage and initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding," said Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) in a statement.
What is the latest?
"Admiral Osama Rabie, head of the Suez Canal Authority, has announced the resumption of shipping traffic in the Suez Canal," the SCA said in a statement, shortly after shipping sites had showed it to have once more diagonally blocked the waterway.
Videos posted by several reporters on Twitter showed tug boat teams celebrating as the front of the ship appeared to be moving in the canal once again.
Other videos showed the ship positioned straight in the canal, no longer fully wedged across.
Excavators worked around the clock to dig out and vacuum up a massive amount of sand and mud around the ship, while tug boat crews were able to reposition it.
"We pulled it off!'' said Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, the salvage firm hired to extract the Ever Given, in a statement.
"I am excited to announce that our team of experts, working in close collaboration with the Suez Canal Authority, successfully refloated the Ever Given . thereby making free passage through the Suez Canal possible again."
Egypt's Sissi praises efforts
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi also hailed the "success" of the operation, after the Suez Canal Authority said the ship had been moved to point "80%" in the right direction.
"Today, Egyptians have been successful in putting to an end the crisis of the stranded ship in the Suez Canal, despite the tremendous technical complexity that surrounded this process from every side," el-Sissi said on Twitter. "By restoring matters to their normal course, with Egyptian hands, the whole world will be assured of the path of its goods."
How did the Ever Given get stuck?
On March 23, the Ever Given was passing through a single-lane portion of the Suez Canal when it veered off course during a sandstorm.
Although authorities had blamed strong winds for the ship's grounding last Tuesday, Transport Authority chief Rabie had believed it could have been possibly due to "human error."
The 400-meter (430-yard) long Ever Given was en route from Malaysia to the Netherlands when it got stuck.
The ship, registered in Panama, is owned by Japanese company Imabari Shipbuilding and operated by shipping firm Evergreen Marine.
What has the impact been?
The skyscraper-sized ship effectively brought a key global shipping route to a halt. The Suez Canal is the shortest route between Europe and Asia, connecting the Mediterranean to the Red Sea.
The blockage held up some $9 billion (€7.6 billion) in global trade every day since the ship became wedged in the canal.
At least 18,840 ships passed through the canal last year.
The Suez Canal provides one of Egypt's main sources of income, alongside tourism and remittances from expatriates.
Revenue from the waterway reached 5.6 billion dollars last year.
rs, wd, jf, ab/msh (AP, dpa, AFP)