Cargo vessel refloated after running aground in Suez Canal

The bulk carrier suffered engine trouble in one of the world's most vital shipping routes

A tugboat pulls the Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier M/V Glory in the Suez Canal near al-Qantarah between Port Said and Ismailia. AFP
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A cargo vessel carrying Ukrainian grain to China was refloated after running aground in the Suez Canal on Monday.

The MV Glory ran aground while joining a southbound convoy in Egypt, canal services firm Leth said.

Four of the Suez Canal Authority's strongest tug boats were used to pull the ship out of its position and refloat it, a statement from the authority's chief Admiral Osama Rabie said.

The brief stranding revived memories of March 2021 when the Ever Given, a ship weighing nearly 200,000 tonnes, ran aground in the canal, nearly causing a regional shipping crisis until it was refloated. The canal has since been expanded.

Admiral Rabie confirmed that it was not a serious incident and that the ship would now be tugged to “kilometre 51" of the canal to clear the waterway's backlog of delayed vessels. The 161km waterway was recently widened in the stretch between 51km and 122km, allowing safer passage for larger vessels. Admiral Rabie said it would receive repairs and be on its way.

“Maritime traffic through the canal is back to normal,” he said. “We dealt professionally with the motor malfunction of the Glory's machinery that happened during its transit through the canal.”

The ship, a Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier reportedly carrying more than 65,000 tonnes of corn from Ukraine bound for China, will be escorted on its journey out of the canal by several canal guides, Admiral Rabie confirmed.

It was stuck in a single-lane stretch of the Suez Canal just south of Port Said, according to satellite data analysed by AP. It was not immediately clear what caused the vessel to run aground.

An Egyptian salvage officer on one of the tugboats involved in the rescue told The National that a motor malfunction occurred. This brought the ship to a stop after which it drifted and ran aground in “kilometre 39" of the canal.

The officer, who preferred to remain anonymous, said the ship had been allocated the number four position in the queue in the morning, resulting in a backlog of 19 other ships between Port Said and where the MV Glory ran aground.

Leth said it ran aground near the city of El Qantara, in Ismailia province.

The MV Glory was reportedly inspected on January 3 by the Joint Co-ordination Centre, which monitors the UN-brokered grain shipments and includes Russian, Turkish, Ukrainian and UN staffers.

The Suez Canal is a vital waterway through which about 10 per cent of global trade is transported and is a major source of revenue for Egypt, which is facing a worsening financial crisis.

Two convoys transit through the canal every day, one northbound to the Mediterranean and the other southbound to the Red Sea.

In 2021, the canal was blocked for six days when the Ever Given ran aground, leaving hundreds of ships stuck and holding up $9 billion of global trade each day.

According to shipping website Marine Traffic, the MV Glory has a deadweight tonnage — the carrying capacity of the ship, including fuel — of 162,804 tonnes. The Ever Given's deadweight tonnage was around 181,097 tonnes, meaning that if fully laden, the MV Glory is about 89 per cent as heavy as the behemoth that blocked the shipping lane in March 2021.

It is not the first time a ship carrying Ukrainian grain has halted traffic.

A ship carrying more than 3,000 tonnes of corn from the war-torn nation ran aground in Istanbul in September, halting traffic on the Bosphorus Strait, which was hit by a tanker logjam last month.

The Suez Canal was briefly blocked again last year when another tanker ran aground, becoming wedged in a single-lane stretch of the canal.

More than 25,000 vessels went through the canal last year, bringing in nearly $8 billion in revenue — a 25 per cent increase from 2021.

Updated: January 09, 2023, 10:27 AM