Stranded container ship 'refloated' after blocking Suez Canal for 6 days

Stranded Ever Given back afloat in Suez Canal: Reports

The massive, skyscraper-sized container ship's bow jabbed into the canal's right bank last Tuesday, with its stern pointing toward the left bank at an angle sufficient to block all traffic by all large ships. Dozens of others have taken the long, alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa's southern tip - a 5,000-kilometer (3,100-mile) detour that costs ships hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and other costs.

The ship is now reportedly en route to the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south end of the canal, where it would undergo technical examination, according to canal authorities.

On Saturday, the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, Osama Rabie, said the state-run body was losing around $14 million to $15 million for every day that the canal was blocked.

The situation is just the latest jolt to a global supply chain that already had been strained since the start of the pandemic, exacerbating a shortage in container space that has sent shipping prices soaring over the previous year.

After the colossal ship that had been blocking the Suez Canal for almost a week was partially refloated earlier on Monday, it has now been freed, according to local witnesses and a shipping agency in Egypt.

A general view of the Ever Given container ship in Suez Canal, in Suez Canal in this Maxar Technologies satellite image taken on March 27, 2021.

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Egyptian media reported President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had ordered "preparations" to offload containers in order to lighten the ship. "I thank every honest Egyptian who contributed technically and practically to ending this crisis". At least 367 ships, carrying everything from oil to cattle, are waiting to pass at both ends of the canal.

It remained unclear when ships will be permitted to enter the canal for normal passage.

Richard Meade, an editor at shipping data and news company Lloyd's List, said sources close to the salvage operation had voiced optimism "that the vessel could be moved within the next 24-48 hours".

While the hit of the canal's US$10-billion-per-day closure will likely be small given that global merchandise trade amounts to US$18 trillion a year, the prospect of hundreds of ships being thrown off schedule will ensure cargo delays in the weeks if not months ahead.

It was not clear if the Ever Given would continue to its original destination, Rotterdam, or if it would go to a port for repairs. Millions of barrels of oil and liquified natural gas flow through the artery from the Persian Gulf to Europe and North America. It normally carries goods from Asia to Europe.

The unprecedented shutdown has threatened to disrupt oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East and raised fears of extended delays, good shortages and rising costs for consumers.

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