Egyptian tugboats have been working since early Thursday to free the giant container ship trapped in the Suez Canal and interrupting the flow on one of the world’s busiest maritime trade routes.
The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said it was trying to refloat the MV Ever Given, a 400-meter long vessel that veered off course and ran aground in a sandstorm in a sandstorm on Tuesday.
Satellite images released by Planet Labs Inc show the 59-meter-wide container ship stranded diagonally across the entire channel.
“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Ranjith Raja, Middle East oil and shipping researcher at international financial data firm Refinitiv.
“It is likely that the congestion … will take several days or weeks to clear up, as it will have a ripple effect on other convoys .”
The blockade has already affected world oil markets. Crude futures rose 6 percent on Wednesday as traders assessed the possible impact on deliveries .
Broker Braemar warned that if the tugs cannot move the giant vessel, some of its cargo may have to be removed by a crane barge to refloat it.
“This can take days, maybe weeks,” he said.
The ship’s managers, Singapore-based Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), said its 25 crew members were uninjured and the hull and cargo were undamaged.
A MarineTraffic map showed large groups of vessels circling as they waited in both the Mediterranean to the north and the Red Sea to the south.
Historic sections of the canal were reopened in an attempt to ease the bottleneck , with dozens of ships waiting at both ends of the waterway.
The waterway drastically shortens travel between Asia and Europe by preventing vessels from having to navigate around the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa.
The route from Singapore to Rotterdam, for example, is 6,000 kilometres and up to two weeks shorter than going around Africa.
It is an “absolutely critical” route because “all traffic coming from Asia goes through the Suez Canal,” said Camille Egloff, a maritime transport specialist at Boston Consulting Group.
Nearly 19,000 ships passed through the canal last year with more than 1 billion tons of cargo, according to the SCA.
Egypt made $ 5.61 billion in revenue from the canal in 2020.
It is not the first time that the Ever Given is news. In 2019, the ship was involved in another accident, also caused by strong winds, which only by chance resulted in no casualties.
The episode occurred in Hamburg, Germany, on February 9, 2019, while the ship was sailing down the Elbe river towards Rotterdam.
On that occasion, the Ever Given went slightly off its route and got too close to a dock where the “ Finkenwerder” , a small 25-meter long ferry, was parked. It was just a slight rub, but enough to inflict serious damage to the ferry, which was completely destroyed.
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