An unlikely sea traffic jam blocks one of the world’s most important shipping lanes after a huge freighter got stuck on the side of the waterway.
Oil tankers have been seen lining up for hours near the entrance to Egypt’s Suez Canal, which accounts for 12% of world trade and typically allows 50 freighters to pass daily between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
A severe dust storm and poor visibility were to blame for the 220,000-ton, 400-meter (1,312-foot) container ship turning sideways near the southern end of the canal on Tuesday morning.
Egyptian officials from the Suez Canal Authority confirmed they were still trying to refloat the ship, named Ever Given, after it ran aground on its trip from China to Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
Several rescue attempts to dislodge the vessel have so far failed.
Ships from the Suez Canal were diverted to an older canal on Wednesday after the stranded cargo status passed the 24-hour mark.
“All crews are safe and counted,” said Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, who manages Ever Given. “There have been no reports of injuries or pollution.”
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The vessel is operated by the Taiwanese shipping company Evergreen and is registered in Panama.
Reports of the bottleneck emerged after satellite data showed Ever Given’s bow touching the east wall of the canal, while its stern appeared to be lodged against its west wall and an image posted to Instagram by a user on another freighter waiting showed that the ship was stuck across the canal. .
A shipment monitoring site showed the struggling vessel surrounded by small tugs trying to dislodge it from the banks.
Officials said the channel “will spare no effort” to ensure continued global commercial traffic. Blocking, however, is likely to cause shipping delays. According to a oil export tracker, “Tankers carrying Saudi, Russian, Omani and American oil are waiting on both sides. “
An alternative route for Asia-Europe container trade flows would take a week longer, Tan Hua Joo, consultant at Liner Research, told Reuters.
Nearly 19,000 ships with a net tonnage of 1.17 billion tonnes passed through the canal last year, according to the Suez Canal Authority.
No U.S. Navy ships are affected by the shutdown, a 5th Fleet spokesperson told NBC News.
Traffic jams are rare on the Suez Canal. In 2017, a Japanese container ship blocked the canal, but Egyptian authorities refloated the ship within hours.
Suez is still remembered for being at the heart of an international crisis in 1956 after Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nassar nationalized the canal, previously British and French owned. This decision led to a failed invasion and humiliation for the powers of Western Europe.