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An excavator on the edge of the Suez Canal Bank digging the bow of the MV Ever Given free
Excavation trucks have been doing their best to dislodge the MV Ever Given, one of the world's largest freight vesselsImage: Suez Canal Authority/dpa/picture alliance

Ship freed in Suez Canal

March 25, 2021

Workers freed the MV Ever Given earlier, raising hopes of traffic returning to normal along one of the world's most important trade routes.


A huge container ship that has been stuck in the Suez Canal for nearly a week has been released, authorities said on Monday.

Workees succesfully freed the MV Ever Given earlier, according to the Suez Canal Authority and service provider Leth Agencies.


"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.

The vessel, which is the size of the Empire State Building in New York, had held up nearly 200 other ships, bringing the world's most important trade route to a grinding halt.

How the vessel was freed 

With the bow plowed into one of the banks of the canal, an excavator was put into service and dredgers cleared silt around the ship. Up to nine tugboats, hugging the sides of the ship, were used to gain momentum to bring the ship afloat. 

The 400-meter (1,300-foot) long and 59-meter wide vessel was lodged sideways, making it impossible for other ships to pass along the narrow stretch of the canal.

Ships already stuck behind the Ever Given were reversed back to Port Suez to free the channel, said management firm Leth Agencies.


What caused the blockage?

The ship "accidentally ran aground after a suspected gust of wind hit it," said the ship's operator. The incident occurred at around 7:45 a.m. on Tuesday, said Bernhard Schulte Management, a vessel management company. 

Egyptian forecasters said high winds and a sandstorm plagued the area Tuesday, with winds gusting as much as 50 kilometers (30 miles) per hour.

"Initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding,'' said Leth Agencies. 

A formal apology

Acknowledging the global turmoil caused by the blockage, the ship's owner has issued a formal apology. "We would like to apologize to all parties affected by this incident," said Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd. in a statement.

The Ever Given is currently facing "extreme difficulty" in refloating the ship, the owner said.

"When a vessel runs aground Suez Canal officials are alone empowered to order and direct all operations required to get the vessel afloat," according to the Suez Canal Authority Rules of Navigation.

"Nevertheless managers remain responsible for all damages and accidents of any kind," it added.

A satellite image showing a cargo ship run aground and blocking other ships from passing it on the Suez Canal.
This satellite image shows the cargo ship MV Ever Given stuck in the Suez CanalImage: European Space Agency/Maxar Technologies/Handout/REUTERS

A crucial waterway

The canal, through which around 10% of global maritime trade flows, provides a crucial link for oil, natural gas and cargo being shipped from the East to the West. Close to 19,000 ships used the canal last year, carrying more than 1 billion tons of cargo, according to the Suez Canal Authority.

Lloyd's List, a famed shipping journal, estimates that the closure will prevent goods worth some $9 billion (€7.6 billion) from passing through the waterway each day.

A.P. Moller Maersk, the world's largest container shipping company, said it was considering diverting vessels around Africa's Cape of Good Hope, adding five to six days to the journey between Asia and Europe. Other time-sensitive cargo could be sent by trains and airplanes, it said. 

jm/msh (AP, AFP)

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