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Suez Canal: Ever Given freed and traffic resumed, Egypt says

After blocking the canal for six days, the mammoth container ship is now in the middle of the waterway heading for inspection
Ever Given is seen soon after it had been refloated in the Suez Canal, Egypt on 29 March 2021 (Suez Canal Authority/Handout via Reuters)

The mammoth Ever Given container ship was finally freed in the Suez Canal on Monday, Egyptian authorities said, unblocking the vital artery that had been closed off to international shipping.

The Ever Given's management company confirmed that it had been refloated in the Suez Canal at 15:00 local time on Monday, and was heading to the Great Bitter Lake, where it would undergo a full inspection.

"There have been no reports of pollution or cargo damage and initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding," said Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) in a statement.

Live footage on a local television station showed the ship surrounded by tug boats moving slowly in the centre of the canal. The station, ExtraNews, said the ship was moving at a speed of 1.5 knots.

"Admiral Osama Rabie, the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), announces the resumption of maritime traffic in the Suez Canal after the authority successfully rescues and floats the giant Panamanian container ship Ever Given," a statement from the SCA said.

"She's free," an official involved in the salvage operation said.

Evergreen Line, which is leasing the Ever Given, confirmed that the ship had been successfully refloated and that it would be repositioned and inspected for seaworthiness.

Suez Canal authorities have informed shipping agencies that convoys of ships will resume running both ways through the Suez Canal from 7 p.m. (1700 GMT), two agents told Reuters on Monday. 

Worldwide attention

It capped a topsy-turvy day and difficult week for authorities attempting to dislodge the Ever Given, which earlier on Monday was partially refloated and swung across the water by the wind.

The fate of the megaship has been a popular topic on social media, and its newfound freedom brought a sigh of relief to many.

As the ship was refloated in the morning, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi swiftly hailed the "success" in ending the crisis of the stranded ship.

“And by restoring matters to their normal course, with Egyptian hands, the whole world can be assured of the path of its goods and needs that are carried through this navigational artery,” Sisi said on his official Twitter account. 

Ever Given container ship on Tracking Website
The Ever Given sits in the centre of the Suez Canal, as shown on a tracking website following a refloating operation on 29 March 2021 (Screengrab/Vessel Finder)

The 400-metre (430-yard) long Ever Given grabbed international headlines last Tuesday after it was jammed diagonally across a southern section of the Suez Canal in high winds, halting traffic on the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.

Knock-on disruptions

At least 369 vessels are 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, the SCA's Osama Rabie said.

The authority said earlier it would be able to accelerate convoys through the canal once the Ever Given was freed. "We will not waste one second," Rabie told Egyptian state television.

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He said it could take from two-and-a-half to three days to clear the backlog, and a canal source said more than 100 ships would be able to enter the channel daily. Shipping group Maersk said the knock-on disruptions to global shipping could take weeks or months to unravel.

Sisi, who had not previously publicly commented on the blockage, said Egypt had ended the crisis and assured resumption of trade through the canal.

Oil prices had dropped one percent to $63.95 a barrel. Shares of Taiwan-listed Evergreen Marine Corp - the vessel's lessor - rose 1.75 percent.

About 15 percent of world shipping traffic transits the Suez Canal, which is an important source of foreign currency revenue for Egypt. The stoppage was costing the canal $14m-$15m a day.

Shipping rates for oil-product tankers nearly doubled after the ship became stranded, and the blockage disrupted global supply chains, threatening costly delays for companies already dealing with Covid-19 restrictions.

Maersk was among shippers rerouting cargoes around Africa's Cape of Good Hope, adding up to two weeks to journeys and extra fuel costs.