Suez Canal officials blame weather and improper manoeuvre for blockage

Investigations into how a ship ran aground continue as inspectors look for damage and cause

The giant container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week probably got stuck because of a wrong manoeuvre by its captain.

"The wrong manoeuvre coincided with a dust storm and strong winds ... all of which led to the loss of visibility and the ship stranding, but the weather factors were not fully responsible for the accident," two officials of the Suez Canal Authority told the Italian news agency Nova.

The agency did not identify the officials.

The Ever Given, which is 400 metres long, ran aground in the main channel of the canal on March 23. Shortly after being freed on March 29, investigators boarded the vessel to look into why it got stuck and whether there was any damage.

The blockage caused a major disruption in global shipping and losses worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

After the ship was freed, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi highlighted the global importance of the Suez Canal.

He also pledged to purchase all the equipment needed by the Suez Canal to face such major emergencies.

The chairman of the canal authority, Osama Rabie, said Egypt would have two new tugboats – one this month and another in August. Authorities also plan to acquire the biggest dredger in the Middle East and arrange for another five new Chinese tugboats.

It was not clear if the canal authority would opt to extend a second channel south of the one that Egypt opened in 2015 at a cost of $8 billion along a 70km portion of the waterway. Such an extension would allow traffic to continue flowing even if a ship were grounded.

"An expansion for the southern section of the canal can come under consideration," Mr El Sisi said. "It's up to the technical people. We don't want to take measures just because of extraordinary situations."

Updated: April 2, 2021 04:55 PM

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