Suez Canal blocked briefly as cargo ship runs aground

Waterway under expansion after 'Ever Given' mega-tanker blocked maritime traffic for nearly a week

The 'Coral Crystal' cargo ship that ran briefly ran aground in the Suez Canal on September 9, 2021. Photo: Suez Canal Authority
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A bulk carrier ran aground in the Suez Canal on Thursday, prompting authorities to briefly suspend traffic in the international waterway before it was refloated.

The Suez Canal Authority said the incident was "handled with the utmost professionalism" and that traffic through the canal was not affected.

The blockage occurred almost six months after traffic in the canal was halted for six days when a cargo ship, the Ever Given, ran aground, blocking traffic in the vital waterway linking the Red Sea to the Mediterranean.

The blockage in March cost the Suez Canal millions of dollars in lost revenues and disrupted global trade. It also revived the long-running debate on whether alternative routes should be found between Europe on one end and the Middle East and Asia on the other.

Thursday's blockage happened in the western stretch of the Ballah bypass, one of the waterway's two-lane sections which allow vessels to navigate the canal in both directions, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said.

The Panama-registered bulk carrier Coral Crystal was headed south to Port Sudan when it ran aground 20 km north of Ismailia. Northbound maritime traffic was able to continue through the eastern arm of the bypass, the SCA said.

The canal authority said it took 15 minutes for tug boats to reach the vessel to free it and allow south-bound vessels stuck behind it to resume their journey.

The Coral Crystal was reportedly carrying 43,000 tonnes of cargo when it ran aground.

“It was a minor traffic issue that was resolved in less than an hour,” a senior Suez Canal official told The National.

SCA chairman Admiral Osama Rabie said the authority possessed the necessary navigational and technical capabilities to deal with "any and all malfunctions". Recent changes to the canal have made dealing with maritime crises much easier, he said.

The canal on Thursday saw the passage of 61 vessels carrying a total of 3.2 million tonnes in cargo, the SCA said.

Since the Ever Given incident, the canal authority has announced a multibillion-dollar project to widen sections of the canal and install other infrastructure to ensure that no other large ships run aground in the same manner again.

Updated: September 09, 2021, 3:02 PM