Divers inspected the underside of a colossal container ship that had blocked the Suez Canal in Egypt, spotting some damage to the bow but not enough to take it out of service, officials said Wednesday.
The dives were part of a continuing investigation into what caused the Ever Given to crash into the bank of the canal where it remained wedged for six days, before it was dislodged on Monday.
The vessel is now anchored in the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south ends of the canal.
Lead investigator Captain Sayed Sheasha, who boarded the Ever Given on Wednesday afternoon, told Reuters news agency that the investigation would include examining the seaworthiness of the ship and its captain’s actions to help determine the causes.
Divers had gone to check the hull of the ship while it’s anchored in the Bitter Lakes area, a canal source said.
The Ever Given’s captain was committed to fully complying with the probe, Sheasha said.
“The ship will remain in the lakes area until the investigations are complete,” Suez Canal Authority (SCA) Chairman Osama Rabie told a local television channel late on Wednesday, adding that there was no definite time frame for the inquiry.
Rabie also said that investigators on Wednesday questioned the crew.
The six-day blockage threw global supply chains into disarray after the 400-metre-long (1,312-foot) ship became jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal, the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.
The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said on Wednesday that shipping had returned to normal levels, with a total of 81 ships transiting the canal.
Egypt’s Leth Agencies said on Wednesday that a total of 163 ships had transited the Suez Canal since its reopening and that 292 ships were currently waiting.
Five liquefied natural gas vessels transited on Tuesday, commodities analyst Kpler said in a note, adding that it appeared congestion at the canal was “now quickly tapering off”.
The SCA has scheduled accelerated shipping convoys and has said it hopes the backlog of ships can be cleared by the end of the week.
Moment of triumph
Dislodging the Ever Given was a moment of triumph for the members of the salvage team.
Some broke into tears, and many hugged each other as the vessel’s bow was rooted out from the eastern side of the canal.
“We saw it on television, and it is completely different than when you see it in front of you,” said one of the men, Mostafa Mohamed.
The unprecedented canal shutdown had added to the strain on the shipping industry, already under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.
The six-day closure would “create a domino effect of delays for goods to be delivered and for the backlog of shipments to be processed through”, said Diego Pantoja-Navajas, an expert in supply chain logistics and vice president of WMS Cloud Development at Oracle.