4 Apr 2021

Suez Canal traffic jam caused by stuck ship Ever Given cleared

7:20 am on 4 April 2021

The last ships stranded by the giant container vessel that was stuck in the Suez Canal have now passed through the waterway, the canal authorities say.

SUEZ, EGYPT - MARCH 29: The container ship 'Ever Given' enters Great Bitter Lake after it was refloated, unblocking the Suez Canal on March 29, 2021 in Suez, Egypt.

The Ever Given has been anchored in the Great Bitter Lake, the canal's midway point, since being refloated on Monday. Photo: 2021 Getty Images

More than 400 vessels were left waiting at either end of the canal when the 400m-long Ever Given became wedged across it on 23 March.

But Egypt's Suez Canal Authority says the shipping traffic jam is now over.

Officials have opened an investigation into the incident and expect to made their findings public early next week.

The results could have major legal repercussions, as various parties seek to recoup the costs of the repairs to the ship and the canal, as well as the salvage operation.

About 12 percent of global trade passes through the 193km canal, which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea and provides the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe.

The 220,000-tonne Ever Given was finally freed last Monday after a major salvage operation involving a flotilla of powerful tug boats and dredging vessels that shifted an estimated 30,000 cubic metres of mud and sand.

Tug boats and dredgers on March 27, 2021, attempting to free the ship Ever Given, which was lodged sideways and impeding all traffic across Egypt's Suez Canal.

An aerial view of the 220,000-tonne Ever Given when it was blocking the Suez Canal. Photo: Satellite image 2021 Maxar Technologies / AFP

The operation allowed hundreds of ships, carrying millions of tons of cargo, to start moving through the waterway.

A total of 85 ships, carrying cargo weighing 4.2 million tons, passed through the canal in both directions on Saturday, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said in a statement.

These were expected to include the last 61 ships out of the 422 that were queuing when the Ever Given container vessel was dislodged.

'Great efforts'

The canal authorities are under pressure to upgrade the waterway's technical infrastructure to avoid further disruption in the future.

They have said they will demand at least $US1 billion in compensation for the losses resulting from the blockage.

In an interview with the privately owned Sada el-Balad TV on Wednesday, SCA chairman Osama Rabie said that the Ever Given vessel would not leave the Great Bitter Lake, where it is currently being held, until the compensation was paid by the vessel's owner.

In this handout photo released by Suez Canal Press Service, Admiral Osama Rabie, Chairman and Managing Director of the Suez Canal Authority, watches the operation of unblocking the Ever Given container ship that ran aground in the Suez Canal,

Osama Rabie watches as the Ever Given is freed. Photo: AFP

Rabie also said that about 800 people had helped to free the ship, adding that they would be rewarded for their "great efforts".

The vessel's technical managers, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, said on Monday that its initial investigations suggested it had veered off course due to strong wind. They also ruled out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause.

However, Rabie believes the impact of the wind was not the main reason for the incident, and that "technical or human errors" may have been to blame.

"The Suez Canal has never been closed because of bad weather," he earlier told reporters.

He also denied size was a factor, saying larger ships had used the waterway.


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