Ships in the Suez Canal were being diverted to an older channel on Wednesday after a large container ship ran aground, blocking vessels passing through one of the world’s most important waterways, maritime sources and companies involved reported.
Nearly 12% of world trade, by volume, passes through the canal connecting Europe and Asia, and the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) remains a major source of hard currency for Egypt.
At around 05:40 GMT on Tuesday, one of the largest container ships in the world – the 200,000-tonne Ever Given – ran aground in the canal, said the ship’s technical manager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM). BSM said an investigation was underway.
The mishap took place because of bad weather, according to sources. Operations to float and free the vessel started on Wednesday morning, they reported, noting that some delays to shipping were expected.
Shiptracking data on Refinitiv Eikon showed 7 tug boats coming to the aid of the Rotterdam-bound vessel, which appeared in tracking maps to still be grounded. It was unclear how soon the vessel would be free.
The container ship is 400 m (1,312 feet) long and 59 m (193 feet) wide, and can carry up to 20,000 20-foot equivalent (TEU) shipping containers.
Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine Corp, which is leasing the vessel under a time charter, said the shipowner had informed the company that the ship “was suspected of being hit by a sudden strong wind, causing the hull to deviate from waterway and accidentally hit the bottom and run aground”.
All the crew are safe and accounted for, said BSM which handles the ship’s crew and technical issues, adding that there have been no reports of casualties or pollution.
BSM has notified the authorities and “interested parties” but said it could not confirm who is the owner of the ship.
“All parties are currently investigating the cause of the grounding and it would be incorrect to speculate on any one given cause at this time,” BSM said in an e-mail to Reuters.
Port agent GAC said on Wednesday on its website that 15 other ships in the northbound convoy behind the Ever Given were detained at anchorages waiting for the canal to be cleared. A southbound convoy was also blocked.