Suez Canal backlog: estimates vary as to how long ships will have to queue

Egypt's president emphasises viability of the passage for shipping

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Ships were moving through the Suez Canal again days after tugs refloated the Ever Given container carrier, which blocked the passage for almost a week.

The initial backlog of 422 ships was estimated to take three-and-a-half days to clear, the passage's chairman and Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said on Tuesday.

Independent experts suggested the backlog could take up to 10 days to move through but by Wednesday afternoon, Leth Agencies, an organisation that monitors maritime traffic, said that the number of ships waiting to transit the canal had fallen to 292.

The blockage of the canal as well as the potential backlog has already struck the global economy, affecting markets, shipping and consumers.

According to Lloyd's List, a journal focused on shipping news, each day of blockage disrupts goods worth more than $9 billion, translating to about $400 million an hour.

Mr El Sisi paid a visit to the sight of the blockage where he reiterated the importance of the major waterway.

He said: "The accident showed the world the importance of the Suez Canal after some people spoke about alternative routes."

Mr El Sisi's faith in the continued use of the Suez Canal and his insistence at the need for the structure came just a day before investigators began an inquiry into why the massive container carrier got stuck.

Experts boarded the ship on Tuesday looking for potential damage and answers to what may have caused the ship to run aground.

Since being freed, the Ever Given is in Egypt's Great Bitter Lake, just north of the site where it previously blocked the canal.