May 9, 2021

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Suez Canal: Tugs resume effort to clear Ever Given container ship blockage in Egypt as traffic jam builds

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Efforts to refloat the Ever Given resumed at high tide on Thursday, with five tugs working to drag the vessel to deeper water, according to ship-tracking data.

The container ship — which is almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall — ran aground Tuesday after being caught in 40-knot winds and a sandstorm which caused low visibility and poor navigation, the Suez Canal Authority said in a statement Wednesday.

The huge vessel, which measures 400 meters long and 59 meters wide, continues to block transit in both directions through the key shipping channel.

The world’s largest container shipping company Maersk said Wednesday that seven of its container ships have been affected.

Four of the vessels are stuck in the nearby canal system while the rest are waiting to enter the passage, the Danish company said in a statement.

“Maersk is constantly monitoring the current situation in the Suez Canal and closely following the refloating efforts of the impacted vessel. Svitzer, our provider of towage and safety services, is taking part in the ongoing refloat operations as requested by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA),” the statement added.

Marine services firm GAC issued a note to clients overnight saying efforts to free the vessel using tug boats continued, but that wind conditions and the sheer size of the vessel “were hindering the operation.”

Ship-tracking software shows five tugs surrounding the Ever Given and three more heading towards it. The ship’s GPS signal shows only minor changes to its position over the past 24 hours, however.

Several dozen vessels, including other large container ships, tankers carrying oil and gas, and bulk vessels hauling grain have backed up at either end of the canal to create one of the worst shipping jams seen for years.

Roughly 30% of the world’s shipping container volume transits through the 193 kilometer (120 mile) Suez Canal daily, and about 12% of total global trade of all goods.

This satellite image from Planet Labs Inc. shows the Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal on Tuesday.

Shipping experts say that if the blockage is not likely to be cleared within the next 24 to 48 hours, some shipping firms may be forced to reroute vessels around the southern tip of Africa, which would add about a week to the journey.

But the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority told media that despite the blockage, some cargo was able to move south and efforts to dislodge Ever Given would continue.

2021-03-25 04:51:42

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