Stuck ship in Egypt’s Suez Canal imperils shipping worldwide

ISMAILIA, EGYPT (AP) — A skyscraper-sized cargo ship wedged across Egypt’s Suez Canal further imperiled global shipping yesterday as at least 150 other vessels needing to pass through the crucial waterway idled waiting for the obstruction to clear, authorities said.

The Ever Given, a Panama-flagged ship that carries cargo between Asia and Europe, ran aground on Tuesday in the narrow, man-made canal dividing continental Africa from the Sinai Peninsula. In the time since, efforts to free the ship using dredgers, digging and the aid of high tides have yet to push the container vessel aside — affecting billions of dollars’ worth of cargo.

In a sign of the global turmoil the blockage has caused, the ship’s Japanese owner even offered a written apology yesterday for the incident.

“We are determined to keep on working hard to resolve this situation as soon as possible,” Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd said. “We would like to apologise to all parties affected by this incident, including the ships travelling and planning to travel through Suez Canal.”

Authorities began work again to free the vessel yesterday morning after halting for the night, an Egyptian canal authority official said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorised to speak to journalists, said workers hoped to avoid offloading containers from the vessel as it would be a days-long effort to do so that could extend the closure.

So far, dredgers have tried to clear silt around the massive ship. Tug boats nudged the vessel alongside it, trying to gain momentum. From the shore, at least one backhoe dug into the canal’s sandy banks, suggesting the bow of the ship had plowed into it. However, satellite photos taken yesterday by Planet Labs Inc and analysed by The Associated Press showed the vessel still stuck in the same location.

Head of the canal authority Lieutenant General Osama Rabei said navigation through the waterway would remain halted till they refloat the vessel.

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the company that manages the Ever Given, said the ship’s 25-member crew are safe and accounted for. Shoei Kisen Kaisha said all the crew came from India.

The ship had two pilots from Egypt’s canal authority aboard the vessel to guide it when the grounding happened around 7.45am on Tuesday, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement said.