Suez Canal resumes normal traffic after collision

Both the BW Lesmes and Burri were headed for Egypt's Port Said when they crashed

The Burri was moved by tugboat in the Suez Canal after a collision with the BW Lesmes.  AP
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Marine traffic in Egypt's Suez Canal is back to normal, authorities said on Wednesday.

Osama Rabie, the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, had earlier said the waterway's northern convoy would resume after the oil tanker Burri was towed away, following a collision with liquefied natural gas carrier BW Lesmes.

“Slight contact” was made after the BW Lesmes made a sudden stop due to a technical failure. This coincided with a strong current that drove the Burri towards the BW Lesmes, Mr Rabie said.

The canal authority responded by sending tugboats to move both ships, he said.

The Singapore-flagged BW Lesmes was successfully towed from the waterway, Mr Rabie added, while the Cayman Islands-flagged Burri could be seen approaching the southern end of the canal as of 12pm local time, according to ship tracker MarineTraffic.

BW LNG AS, operators of the BW Lesmes, reported the vessel had run aground while transiting southbound through the Suez Canal at about 9.35pm local time on Tuesday.

The low speed collision did not affect the vessel's operational capabilities and the vessel “remains structurally sound”, it added.

The BW Lesmes was refloated at 3.30am on Wednesday and will undergo further inspections at Suez anchorage.

Mr Rabie said there did not appear to be any significant damage or pollution but that the Burri had a steering failure that would require repair.

TMS Tankers, which manages the Burri, did not respond to requests for comment.

Time-lapse footage shared by MarineTraffic showed the Burri turning sideways and colliding with an already sideways BW Lesmes at 10.40pm before backing up and pointing straight.

The last port of call for both ships was Port Said to the north.

Mr Rabie said at the time that a ship that had broken down in the course of navigation and was being towed, Egypt's Al Qahera News reported.

The Suez Canal is one of the world's busiest waterways and the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.

About 12 per cent of the world's trade moves through the canal. During strong winds in 2021, a huge container ship, the Ever Given, became jammed across the waterway, halting traffic in both directions for six days and disrupting global trade.

Since then, there have been minor issues caused by technical problems with individual ships.

Updated: August 24, 2023, 6:15 AM