Suez Canal briefly blocked after tanker 'Affinity V' runs aground

The Singaporean-flagged vessel became wedged in a single-lane stretch of the waterway

Ships and boats at the entrance of Suez Canal, which was briefly blocked by a tanker on Wednesday. Reuters
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An oil tanker ran aground in Egypt’s Suez Canal on Wednesday, briefly blocking the man-made waterway.

The Singapore-flagged Affinity V became stuck in a single-lane stretch of the canal, said Suez Canal Authority chief Osama Rabie.

It seemed to have lost control in the waterway while heading south, wrote on Twitter.

The vessel temporarily blocked traffic before being assisted by tugboats and was facing south again early on Thursday, it said.

Five of the authority’s tug boats managed to set the vessel afloat again in a co-ordinated operation, Mr Rabie said.

A technical failure in the boat’s steering mechanism caused it to hit the bank of the canal, he said.

The ship ran aground around at 7.15pm Cairo time and was floating again about five hours later, Suez Canal Authority spokesman George Safwat told the government-affiliated Extra News satellite television channel.

The vessel was part of a convoy heading to the Red Sea, he said.

Navigation for other ships passing through the canal has since returned to normal.

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

The waterway divides continental Africa from the Sinai Peninsula, providing a crucial link for oil, natural gas and cargo.

The Affinity V was built in 2016 and has a length of 252 metres and a width of 45 metres. It sailed from Portugal and its destination was Saudi Arabia's Red Sea port of Yanbu, said Mr Safwat.

Wednesday’s incident was not the first to block the canal.

Panama-flagged container ship Ever Given crashed into a bank of a single-lane stretch of the waterway in March 2021 after being hit by a sandstorm.

The Japanese-owned vessel blocked the canal for six days before being released by a flotilla of tugboats in a massive salvage effort.

That created a traffic jam that held up $9 billion a day in global trade and strained supply chains already burdened by the coronavirus pandemic.

In September 2021, another large shipping vessel ran aground before authorities managed to free it within hours.

After the March 2021 incident, canal authorities undertook work to widen and deepen the waterway’s southern section where the Ever Given ran aground.

About 10 per cent of world trade flows through the canal, a pivotal source of foreign currency to Egypt.

Authorities said 20,649 vessels passed through the canal last year, a 10 per cent increase from 18,830 vessels in 2020. The annual revenue of the canal stood at $6.3 billion in 2021, the highest in its history.

Updated: September 01, 2022, 10:25 AM