Suez Canal blocked again after ship runs aground

Other vessels diverted down parallel channel before problem with bulk carrier fixed

Tom Batchelor
Thursday 09 September 2021 14:53
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Related video: Ever Given container ship aground in the Suez Canal

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A large ship briefly ran aground in the Suez Canal on Thursday, blocking the busy trade route and forcing other vessels to be diverted down a parallel channel.

The incident, which immediately drew comparisons with the giant container ship Ever Given which became stuck in the canal in March, was rectified before traffic could be disrupted, officials said.

Coral Crystal, a Panama-flagged bulk carrier with a cargo of 43,000 tonnes, suffered from a temporary problem on its way southwards through the canal, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) confirmed.

The ship briefly became stuck in the northern section of the Suez Canal but was soon refloated.

Tracking website MarineTraffic showed Coral Crystal moving southwards again on Thursday afternoon using her own engine and heading for Port Sudan, a city in eastern Sudan.

The carrier was shown to be moving at a speed of around 12 knots and surrounded by other large container ships.

MarineTraffic showed Coral Crystal had been briefly stuck just south of the Egyptian city of El Qantara. Reports said it took just 15 minutes for tug boats dispatched to the site to successfully refloat the ship.

“It was a minor traffic issue that was resolved in less than an hour,” a canal official told The National newspaper.

At this point in the canal, two channels exist – one for traffic heading north, the other for ships tracking south – thanks to a multi-billion dollar infrastructure project commissioned by Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in 2015.

The Ever Given, which was unable to move for six days, ran aground in a southern section of the canal which does not have a parallel channel.

A satellite image shows the Ever Given container ship lodged sideways and impeding all traffic across the waterway

Hundreds of ships were unable to navigate the passage as engineers raced to free the 400-metre vessel earlier this year. Many were forced to take a much longer route around the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa, requiring additional fuel and other costs.

Roughly 15 per cent of world shipping traffic transits the Suez Canal, the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia. The SCA claimed the blockage in March would cost the world more than £730m.

The container ship finally docked in the UK on 3 August – four months later than planned – and completed an uneventful return voyage through the canal weeks later en route to Singapore, where it will undergo repairs.

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