Low tide slows work to clear Suez ship blockage; traffic jam builds

PUBLISHED: Thu, 25 Mar 2021 03:26:26 GMT
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SINGAPORE, March 25 (Reuters) – Low tide overnight has slowed efforts to dislodge a 400-metre long, 224,000-tonne container vessel that has choked traffic in both directions along the Suez Canal and created the world’s largest shipping jam.

The Ever Given vessel ran aground diagonally across the single-lane stretch of the southern canal on Tuesday morning after losing the ability to steer amid high winds and a dust storm, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said in a statement.

It is now blocking transit in both directions through one of the world’s busiest shipping channels for goods, oil, grain and other products linking Asia and Europe.

Marine services firm GAC issued a note to clients overnight saying efforts to free the vessel using tug boats continued, but that wind conditions and the sheer size of the vessel “were hindering the operation”.

Ship-tracking software shows that the Ever Given has made only minor changes to its position over the past 24 hours, despite the deployment of several tugs to drag it to deeper water.

Several dozen vessels, including other large container ships, tankers carrying oil and gas, and bulk vessels hauling grain have backed up at either end of the canal to create one of the worst shipping jams seen for years.

Roughly 30% of the world’s shipping container volume transits through the 193 km (120 miles) Suez Canal daily, and about 12% of total global trade of all goods.

Shipping experts say that if the blockage is not likely to be cleared within the next 24-48 hours, some shipping firms may be forced to re-route vessels around the southern tip of Africa, which would add roughly a week to the journey.

But the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority told media that despite the blockage some cargo was able to move south and that efforts to dislodge Ever given would continue.

“Once we get this boat out, then that’s it, things will go back to normal. God willing, we’ll be done today,” Chairman Osama Rabie said.

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(Reporting By Gavin Maguire Editing by Robert Birsel)

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