The Suez Canal was blocked by a giant container ship after a gust of wind blew it off course, causing it to run aground.
The MV Ever Given, a Panamanian-flagged container ship whose owner is listed in Japan, “accidentally ran aground after an alleged gust of wind hit her,” said the vessel’s operator.
The 400-meter (1,300-foot) long and 59-meter-wide vessel is housed laterally at one of the narrowest points in the canal, preventing other vessels from skirting it.
Search trucks are attempting to dig the vessel and “tugs are currently trying to refloat the vessel,” Leth Agencies, which provides ferry services to customers using the channel, said on Twitter.
Bad weather Tuesday
High winds and a sandstorm, with gusts of up to 50 kilometers per hour (35 miles per hour), had plagued the region on Tuesday.
“All crews are safe and counted,” said Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, who manages Ever Given. “There have been no reports of injuries or pollution.”
One of the largest cargo ships in the world, the Ever Given was bound for Europe’s busiest port of Rotterdam before the accident.
Traffic on the canal that separates mainland Africa from the Sinai Peninsula, and through which around 10% of global maritime trade flows, came to a halt on Tuesday with dozens of ships affected.
“When a ship runs aground, the officials of the Suez Canal alone have the authority to order and direct all the operations necessary to put the ship afloat”, according to the navigation rules of the Suez Canal Authority. “Nevertheless, managers remain responsible for all damages and accidents of any kind,” he adds.
One of the busiest waterways in the world
The canal opened in 1869 and has become one of the most important trade routes in the world. The waterway provides a crucial link for oil, natural gas, and goods shipped from east to west. Nearly 19,000 ships used the canal last year, carrying more than a billion tonnes of cargo, according to the Suez Canal Authority.
It is a pillar of the struggling Egyptian economy and one of the country’s main sources of foreign exchange. The channel brought Egypt a total of 5.6 billion dollars (4.7 billion euros) in revenue in 2020.
Although parts of the waterway were enlarged to accommodate the world’s largest ships in 2015, some stretches remain as narrow as 300 meters.
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