A massive cargo vessel that ran aground in the Suez Canal blocking maritime traffic has been partially refloated and ships are again traversing the key trade route, port agent GAC and witnesses reported on Wednesday.
The 220,000-tonne Ever Given cargo ship was hit by sandstorms and 40-knot (74 kph) winds on Tuesday blowing it off course and leaving it stuck across the canal, blocking the trade route.
Taiwan-based Evergreen Line, the time charterer of the vessel, said wind had blown the vessel off course while GAC previously reported that the vessel suffered a power failure.
Excavators tried to dig out at both ends of the ship while a flotilla of tugboats assembled in the area to pull the ship back into the navigation channel.
The largest tug deployed to the site was the Baraka 1 that has four 3,990 horsepower engines and can tow 160 tonnes.
The Ever Given was heading from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean en route to Rotterdam when it ran aground at about 7.40am on Tuesday.
Shipping source told Reuters that the first ship from the northern convoy of the Suez Canal had departed after the Ever Given was cleared on Wednesday.
The company that owns the vessel reported no injuries, no pollution leakages or major damage.
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"There have been no reports of injuries, pollution or cargo damage and initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding," Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, which is the technical manager of the Ever Given.
Canal authorities said they would "spare no effort to guarantee the flow of shipping in the channel" as they redirected ships.
“There is no need to worry about the flow of shipping,” Gen Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, told local news outlets.
He said that shipping was still able to navigate the Suez Canal despite the container running aground just north of Suez.
“I am now at the location of the vessel to follow up on efforts to refloat it. The movement of vessels will continue today in the canal’s main channel,” he said.
Gen Rabie’s assertion that the incident did not block traffic in the canal contradicts numerous reports, including some from eyewitnesses, that it did. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.
Bloomberg reported that more than 100 ships seeking to use the canal were stuck at anchorages waiting for the ship to clear.
Canal officials initially told local media it may take up to two days to free the ship.
The Ever Given is 400 metres long, 59m wide, and can carry up to 20,000 20-foot equivalent shipping containers.
Instagram user Julianne Cona posted a photo of the grounded ship from the Maersk Denver, stuck behind the Ever Given.
"Ship in front of us ran aground while going through the canal and is now stuck sideways," she wrote. "Looks like we might be here for a little bit."