Canal service provider says container ship in Suez set free

SUEZ, Egypt (AP) — Salvage teams on Monday set free a colossal container ship that has halted global
trade through the Suez Canal, a canal services firm said, bringing an end to a crisis that for nearly a
week clogged one of the world’s most vital maritime arteries.
Helped by the peak of high tide, a flotilla of tugboats managed to wrench the bulbous bow of the
skyscraper-sized Ever Given from the canal’s sandy bank, where it had been firmly lodged since last
Tuesday.
After hauling the fully laden 220,000-ton vessel over the canal bank, the salvage team was pulling the
vessel toward the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south end of
the canal, where the ship will undergo technical inspection, canal authorities said.
Satellite data from MarineTraffic.com confirmed that the ship was moving away from the shoreline toward
the center of the artery.
Video released by the Suez Canal Authority showed the Ever Given being escorted by the tugboats that
helped free it, each sounding off their horns in jubilation after nearly a week of chaos.
The obstruction has created a massive traffic jam in the vital passage, holding up $9 billion each day in
global trade and straining supply chains already burdened by the coronavirus pandemic.
It remained unclear when traffic through the canal would return to normal. At least 367 vessels, carrying
everything from crude oil to cattle, have piled up on either end of the canal, waiting to pass.
Data firm Refinitiv estimated it could take more than 10 days to clear the backlog of ships. Meanwhile,
dozens of vessels have opted for the alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern
tip — a 5,000-kilometer (3,100-mile) detour that adds some two weeks to journeys and costs ships
hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and other costs.
The freeing of the vessel came after dredgers vacuumed up sand and mud from the vessel’s bow and 10
tugboats pushed and pulled the vessel for five days, managing to partially refloat it at dawn.
It wasn’t clear whether the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned ship hauling goods from Asia to
Europe, would continue to its original destination of Rotterdam or if it would need to enter another
port for repairs.
Ship operators did not offer a timeline for the reopening of the crucial canal, which carries over 10% of
global trade, including 7% of the world’s oil. Over 19,000 ships passed through last year, according to
canal authorities.
Millions of barrels of oil and liquified natural gas flow through the artery from the Persian Gulf to
Europe and North America. Goods made in China — furniture, clothes, supermarket basics — bound for
Europe also must go through the canal, or else take the detour around Africa.
The unprecedented shutdown had threatened to disrupt oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East
and raised fears of extended delays, goods shortages and rising costs for consumers.
The salvage operation successfully relied on tugs and dredgers alone, allowing authorities to avoid the
far more complex and lengthy task of lightening the vessel by offloading its 20,000 containers.