The Suez Canal in Egypt has been blocked by a massive container ship that turned sideways on Tuesday.
As of Wednesday morning, the container ship — called the Ever Given and operated by the Evergreen Marine transport company — has been partially refloated and traffic is expected to resume soon, the Gulf Agency Company (GAC) said on Wednesday, citing the Suez Canal Authority.
The blocked traffic threatens to disrupt a global shipping system already strained by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Ever Given container ship was now alongside the canal bank, GAC said on its website. The ship earlier appeared to be stuck diagonally across the width of the canal, blocking other shipping
According to a BBC report, the Ever Given, built in 2018, ran aground while attempting to turn just north of the port of Suez.
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The ship tracking website VesselFinder said the Ever Given is on its way from China to Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
The ship is owned by Evergreen Marine Corp., a Taiwanese shipping company. It sails under the Panama flag.
As of Wednesday morning, it remained unclear when the route, through which around 10 per cent of world trade flows and which is particularly crucial for the transport of oil, would reopen. One official warned it could take at least two days, according to the Associated Press.
According to GAC, the Ever Given was the fifth ship in a northbound convoy when it ran aground.
“None of the vessels before it were affected, but the 15 behind it were detained at anchorages awaiting for the canal to be cleared,” a post on their site read. “The southbound convoy was also blocked.”
The global shipping and logistics company said the ship was suffering “a blackout while transiting in a northerly direction,” without elaborating.
Evergreen said in a statement provided to The Associated Press that the Ever Given had been overcome by strong winds as it entered the Suez Canal from the Red Sea but none of its containers had sunk.
A Egyptian official, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to brief journalists similarly blamed a strong wind in the area for the incident. Egyptian forecasters said high winds and a sandstorm plagued the area Tuesday, with winds gusting as much as 50 kph (31 mph).
Someone reportedly aboard another vessel directly behind the Ever Given posted a photo of the ship lodged in the waterway on Instagram.
“Ship in front of us ran aground while going through the canal and is now stuck sideways looks like we might be here for a little bit,” Instagram user Julianne Cona wrote.
The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez, dividing Africa and Asia.
–With files from Global’s Sean Boynton, the Canadian Press and Reuters