Emergency announced in Suez Canal as 'Ever Given' container ship returns

Vessel that blocked waterway in March returns with heavier load than before

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Egyptian authorities declared a state of emergency on Sunday as Ever Given, the container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for six days in March, returned to the waterway with a full load, heading to Rotterdam from China.

The 400-metre Panama-registered vessel arrived in Suez just after midnight on Saturday, where it was moored until it was given the signal to pass through the canal.

The Ever Given’s cargo this time is significantly heavier than it was when it ran aground in the canal and blocked maritime traffic in March, hitting shipping operators worldwide, according to Marwa Maher, a media representative for the Suez Canal Authority.

The state of emergency was declared to ensure a smooth passage for the massive vessel, which was passing fully loaded with cargo for the first time since the March incident, reported Egyptian state-owned daily Al Ahram on Saturday.

The ship also navigated the 193-kilometre canal in August, though at the time it was empty of cargo.

On Sunday, the 'Ever Given' entered the canal through it’s southern entrance, sailing in the same direction as when it ran aground in March. In August it was heading in the opposite direction while it made its way to China.

It reportedly underwent a month of repairs in China before starting out for Europe in November.

Sunday’s journey is the vessel’s 23rd through the canal.

Mapping data provided by Vessel Tracker, an online tool that tracks worldwide maritime traffic, revealed on Sunday that the ship was close to fully loaded, with a draft just under its maximum of 16 metres.

A ship’s draft is the distance between the waterline and the deepest point of its body.

After the ship was refloated in March, it was detained at the Great Bitter Lake, halfway through the canal, pending a legal dispute between the canal’s authority and the ship’s owners over the compensation sum for the blockage, the resulting loss in revenue and damages sustained to the canal.

The ship left Egyptian waters after a ceremony on July 7 in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, where the compensation contract was signed between canal officials and the ship owners' legal team.

Though the compensation sum was never officially announced by the canal’s authority, which is characteristically tight-lipped about the inner workings of the waterway, The National received confirmation that it had received $540 million from the owners before allowing the vessel to depart Egyptian waters.

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Ever Given docks in the UK - in pictures

Updated: December 12th 2021, 1:59 PM