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Suez Canal Cargo Ships

Grounded Cargo Ship Finally Freed in Suez Canal

March 29, 2021
Container vessel Ever Given had plugged up passage through the canal for nearly a week.

After becoming jammed sideways across the width of the Suez Canal March 23, blocking traffic and snarling global supply chains, the 430-yard Ever Given container ship was refloated and repositioned to allow other boats to pass Monday, March 29. Admiral Osama Rabie, Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, announced that navigation of the canal would resume immediately with the midday high tide.

The almost week-long blockage of one of the world’s most vital shipping channels has led to the buildup of at least 369 vessels on either side of the Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean Sea, and therefore Europe and North Africa, to the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and China. Countless industries, especially in Europe, have been adversely affected.

Some shipping companies, including Maersk and MSC, even elected to reroute vessels around the southern tip of Africa to avoid the blockage, adding weeks to travel time and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel costs.

In a statement to Egypt state television, Admiral Rabie said travel through the canal would be accelerated in order to free the logjam as quickly as possible. A source from the canal cited by Reuters said that more than 100 ships would be able to enter the channel each day, but Maersk predicted that effects of the disruption could take weeks or months to fully resolve.

According to the Associated Press, the blockage has held up $9 billion a day in trade goods, and CNBC estimates the current economic toll at $59 billion.

The Ever Given container vessel, leased by Evergreen Marine Corp. of Taiwan, was blown by high winds from a sandstorm, which caused it to become jammed across the 205-meter (224.2 yards) width of the channel diagonally. It was dislodged early Monday morning by tugboats after dredging and excavation work.

“We pulled it off!” said Peter Berdowski, CEO of Danish salvage firm Boskalis, which oversaw the operation to free the 224,000-ton ship. The Ever Given is now set to continue sailing north to the Great Bitter Lake, where it can be inspected for seaworthiness. 

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