Suez Canal ship: Ever Given container vessel ‘refloated’ in major breakthrough

Hopes that canal could soon be clear, freeing up shipping traffic worth $9.6bn a day

Adam Withnall
Monday 29 March 2021 06:40
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Ever Given container ship aground in the Suez Canal

A huge container ship has finally been refloated after almost a week blocking the Suez Canal, according to reports.

Videos showed the stern of the Ever Given being swung out into the middle of the waterway early on Monday morning, with Egyptian tugboat crews sounding their horns in celebration.

Images then showed the ship seemingly straightening up in the canal, and the Reuters news agency quoted local shipping sources as saying it was now on its “normal course”.

Nonetheless, data from Marinetraffic.com suggested that as of around 6am BST, the front of the ship was still skewed towards the eastern bank of the canal, even as some outlets reported that the Ever Given was firing up its engines for the first time since it got stuck.

The refloating of the vessel raises the prospect that the canal could soon be clear, freeing up blocked shipping traffic that is estimated to be worth about $9.6bn a day.

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Egyptian rescuers had dredged another 27,000 cubic meters of sand and mud from around the ship overnight, in preparation for a full moon spring tide that experts said represented the best chance to get the ship back afloat.

With some work clearly still to be done, another powerful tugboat – the Carlo Magno – was racing to the scene to join the efforts of 10 already in place.

Lt Gen Osama Rabei, the head of the Suez Canal Authority, told the Associated Press early on Monday that workers continued “pulling manoeuvres” to get the vessel unstuck.

The Ever Given’s owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd, has said the vessel is undamaged after its ordeal and its engines are working normally, meaning it will be free to continue on its own steam once fully unstuck.

Canal and ship operators have not given a clear timeline for the resumption of shipping traffic in the canal, which accounts for about 10 per cent of all global trade. During the blockage, some vessels have been forced to reroute around Africa and the Cape of Good Hope – adding as much as two weeks to their journeys.

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