Ships in the Suez Canal are being diverted to an older channel after a large container ship ran aground, blocking vessels passing through one of the world’s most important waterways.
At approximately 05:40 GMT on Tuesday, one of the largest container ships in the world – the 200,000-tonne Ever Given – ran aground in the canal, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), the ship’s technical manager said.
About 12 percent of world trade, by volume, passes through the canal connecting Europe and Asia, and the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) remains a major source of hard currency for Egypt.
Operations to float and free the vessel began on Wednesday morning, they said, adding that some delays to shipping were expected.
Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said it was working to refloat the ship, with the authority’s chairman saying historical sections of the canal were being opened in a bid to ease the bottleneck of backed-up marine traffic.
Photographs released by the SCA also showed excavators onshore digging out the canal’s bank, the earth-moving equipment dwarfed by the giant 400m (1,300-foot) long hull towering above.
Tug boats to the rescue
Ship tracking data on Refinitiv Eikon showed seven tug boats coming to the aid of the Rotterdam-bound vessel, which appeared in tracking maps to still be grounded.
Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine Corp, which is leasing the vessel under a time charter, said the shipowner had informed the company that the ship “was suspected of being hit by a sudden strong wind, causing the hull to deviate from waterway and accidentally hit the bottom and run aground”.
BSM, which handles the ship’s crew and technical issues, said all the crew are safe and accounted for and that there have been no reports of injuries or pollution.
Port agent GAC said on Wednesday on its website that 15 other ships in the northbound convoy behind the Ever Given were detained at anchorages waiting for the canal to be cleared.
A southbound convoy was also blocked.
A growing number of tankers have gathered near the entrance to the canal, waiting to pass.
Last year, nearly 19,000 ships, or an average of just over 51 ships a day with a net tonnage of 1.17 billion tonnes, passed through the canal, according to the SCA.