A 1,300-foot, 220,000-ton container ship that has been blocking traffic in the Suez Canal for nearly a week is finally free and once again underway, onboard tracking sites and livestreamed video from the scene indicate.
Monday afternoon local time, as horns blared in apparent celebration for having freed the grounded ship, the Ever Given was seen slowly making its way in the canal. Marinetraffic.com showed the vessel pointed north for the first time since last Tuesday, when in high winds and low visibility it became cross-ways in the canal and ran aground, shutting down all ship traffic in the vital waterway.
“She’s free,” an official involved in the salvage operation said, according to Reuters.
The giant Ever Given is among the largest container ships currently in operation — at roughly twice as long as the canal is wide.
Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, announced early Monday that the stern of the Ever Given container ship had been moved about 335 feet from shore; it had been only a few yards from land.
Despite a flotilla of tugboats and dredgers, two separate attempts to refloat the vessel over the weekend failed, according to shipping authorities.
Evergreen Marine, the Taiwan-based company that operates the ship, said Sunday that dredging efforts had removed more than 20,000 tons of sand and mud, which loosened the ship’s bow, and that the ship’s stern had “been cleared from the sand bank.”
The successful effort to free the ship means at least 369 vessels backed up waiting to transit the canal, including dozens of container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vessels, can now move, Rabie said, according to Reuters.
He told Egyptian television earlier that the Canal Authority would “not waste one second” in moving the delayed ships through the waterway. Rabie said it could take up to three days to clear the backlog of ships.
Maersk, the world’s largest container line, said the knock-on disruptions to global shipping could take weeks or months to unravel.
Freeing the ship from its spot on the Suez Canal will allow billions of dollars worth of cargo to resume transits and obviate the need for vessels to take a long and expensive detour around the tip of Africa to reach ports in Asia.
A prolonged delay could have increased the cost of shipping, complicated manufacturing and ultimately driven up prices, logistics experts preciously.