ISMAILIA, EGYPT (AFP) – Suez Canal maritime traffic was “normal” yesterday after a cargo vessel carrying Ukrainian grain ran aground but was then refloated and towed away, said the Egyptian authority running the vital waterway.
The incident involving the 225-metre-long Marshall Islands-registered M/V Glory had briefly sparked fears of a repeat of a major 2021 blockage when the giant container ship Ever Given became diagonally wedged in the canal.
That week-long closure of the man-made waterway linking Asia and Europe cost billions of dollars through shipping delays, and the life of an employee of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) in the operation to free the mega-ship.
SCA Chief Osama Rabie gave the all-clear yesterday when he said “traffic is moving normally on the Suez Canal” after the authority had “mobilised four tugboats to tow the ship” allowing it to resume its passage through the canal.
“The canal is on track to register 51 vessels passing in both directions on Monday,” he said in a statement.
Smooth traffic through the Suez Canal is vitally important for Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, which is currently battered by an economic crisis that has seen the currency lose 75 per cent in value in less than a year. The waterway, used for about 10 per cent of the world’s maritime trade, is one of Egypt’s main sources of foreign currency revenue, bringing in more than USD7 billion a year.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved a project last year to widen and deepen the southern section of the canal where the Ever Given got stuck.
In 2021, the Ever Given became wedged diagonally across the canal when visibility was sharply reduced during a sandstorm, disrupting trade flows for nearly a week.
According to the SCA, Egypt lost between USD12 million and USD15 million every day of the closure, while insurers estimated that global maritime trade suffered billions in lost revenue per day.
Fears of a costly new blockage were sparked on news of yesterday’s incident.
The Glory was passing through the canal on its route “from Turkiye to China” when it experienced “a sudden technical failure”, according to the SCA.
The ship was carrying a shipment of corn from war-torn Ukraine, according to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, an agreement involving Russia, Ukraine, Turkiye and the United Nations.