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Clearing Suez Canal backlog likely to take until end of week after massive container ship refloated

Around 400 ships are waiting to get through the vital canal.

Updated Mar 29th 2021, 9:26 PM

embedded258879263 The Ever Given has blocked the Suez Canal Source: Mohamed Elshahed via PA Images

CLEARING THROUGH A backlog of ships left by the blockage of the Suez Canal could take Egyptian authorities around four or five days after rescuers managed to free the Ever Given cargo ship.

Earlier today, workers successfully set free the colossal container ship that for nearly a week has been stuck sideways across the Suez Canal, one of the world’s most crucial arteries for trade.

Traffic was due to start flowing again today as the ship was transported to the Great Bitter Lake, approximately a third of the way up the canal.

With crews working full out, it will take until the weekend to get the approximately 400 ships that are lined up on each side of the canal through, said Peter Aylott, director of policy at the UK Chamber of Shipping.

“The vessel will be moved up to the Great Bitter Lake, and then it will be assessed. When it’s in the lake, traffic can then start moving,” he said.

“They can move about 100 vessels a day, but it depends on resources, and it depends on the weather.”

Transit agent Leth Agencies confirmed that the vessel had been refloated at 3pm local time this afternoon.

Helped by the peak of high tide, a flotilla of tugboats managed to wrench the bow of the skyscraper-sized Ever Given from the sandy bank of the crucial waterway, where it had been firmly lodged since last Tuesday.

Tugboats are pulling the vessel toward the Great Bitter Lake, in the middle of the waterway, where it will undergo inspections.

Earlier a partial freeing of the vessel was greeted by the sound of tugboats in the canal sounding their horns in celebration.

Even as salvage work was still ongoing, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi portrayed the development as a victory in his first comments on the stranded vessel.

“Egyptians have succeeded in ending the crisis,” he wrote on Facebook.

The Ever Given became wedged some 3.7 miles north of the canal’s Red Sea entrance near the city of Suez.

A prolonged closure of the crucial waterway would cause delays in the global shipment chain.

Some 19,000 vessels passed through the canal last year, an average of 52 per day, according to official figures. About 10% of world trade flows through the canal.

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A prolonged closure could affect oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East. Already, Syria has begun rationing the distribution of fuel in the war-torn country amid concerns of delays of shipments arriving amid the blockage.

Several stuck vessels carried livestock, raising concerns about the animals. Suez Canal Authority chief Osama Rabei told the Saudi-owned satellite news channel Al-Arabiya that authorities planned to offer provisions to help them.

Dozens of others still listed their destination as the canal, though shippers increasingly appear to be avoiding the passage.

With reporting by Press Association and © – AFP, 2021

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