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Suez Canal: Giant container ship freed after blocking trade for six days

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Lucy Harley-McKeown
·3-min read
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Watch: Ship still stuck in Suez Canal after engineers 'partially refloated' vessel

A 200,000-tonne container ship, that has been blocking off a large portion of global trade over the past six days, was freed from the shoreline of the Suez Canal on Monday, officials said.

Early on Monday, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said that the 400m (1,300ft) container ship, called Ever Given, had been put back on course by 80%. Videos shared on social media at around 11am in London showed the ship straightening up from the bank.

By around 2.30pm in London, Egyptian authorities said other vessels were moving again as the vessel was mobilised.

The Suez Canal is one of the world's busiest trade routes, and the blockage has forced companies to reconsider options. Initially it was thought that the ship could be stuck for weeks. Rerouting trade to sail around Africa's Cape of Good Hope typically adds around two weeks onto journeys.

On Saturday, 14 tugboats managed to move the ship "30 degrees from left and right."

The SCA chief, Osama Rabie, said on Sunday that although the vessel was still stuck there were "positive indicators" from the past two days' efforts.

"The rudder was not moving and it is now moving, the propeller is working now, there was no water underneath the bow, and now there is water under it, and yesterday there was a 4m (13ft) deviation in the bow and the stern," Rabie said at the time.

Satellite imagery of the Suez canal shows the container ship (Ever Given) stuck in the canal north of the city of Suez, Egypt. Photo: Satellite image (c) 2020 Maxar Technologies
Satellite imagery of the Suez canal shows the container ship (Ever Given) stuck in the canal north of the city of Suez, Egypt. Photo: Satellite image (c) 2020 Maxar Technologies

READ MORE: Suez Canal: Syria rations fuel as efforts to free ship continue

On Sunday, dredgers had been able to shift 27,000 cubic metres of sand – this is equal to a depth of 18m or approximately 60ft.

On Monday, the stern of the ship, which had been 4m from the shore, was now 102m clear, the Suez Canal Authority said. Officials said that further efforts to shift the boat would come at 11.30 local time (9.30am BST) with the rising tide.

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The Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.

Built in 1869, the Suez Canal is used by around 50 vessels per day, according to Panjiva, the supply chain research unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence. Container ships accounted for 52.7% of the tonnage in 2019 transiting the canal including shipments from Asia to Europe and the US east coast as well as vice-versa.

An estimated $9.6bn (£7bn) of goods are being held up by the ship each day.

Brent Crude futures have been on a wild ride over the past five days, digesting the news. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK
Brent Crude futures have been on a wild ride over the past five days, digesting the news. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK

Brent Crude oil futures (BZ=F) dropped 1.5% on Monday morning in London on the news having risen as much as 4% on Friday. The commodity had recovered its losses by the afternoon to trade around 0.7% lower. Oil prices could be volatile this week off the back of this and the OPEC+ meeting.