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This post is also available in (Post também disponível em): Português (Portuguese (Brazil))

With information from CNN

Eight tug boats are working to free a large container ship stuck in Egypt’s Suez Canal, halting marine traffic through one of the world’s busiest and most important waterways.

The rescue boats are working to float and release the Ever Given, a 59-meter-wide (193.5-feet) vessel that ran aground after 40-knot winds and a sandstorm that caused low visibility and poor navigation, the Suez Canal Authority said in a statement Wednesday.

The 224,000-ton ship, sailing under a Panama flag, was en route to the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands when it was knocked off course. He entered the crucial East-West trade route on Tuesday morning and ran into trouble when it was approximately 6 nautical miles from the southern end of the estuary, Evergreen Marine said.

An Egyptian officer warned Wednesday that it could take at least two days to release the ship (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

Route blocking

Tanker Trackers, which monitors vessels through satellite and maritime data, said the incident had caused tailbacks of other vessels nearby. “Tankers carrying Saudi, Russian, Omani, and US oil are waiting on both ends,” it said.

The Ever Given was transiting north from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean when it ran into trouble at about 7h40 am after the ship suffered a blackout, Reuters reported citing port agents GAC.

Fifteen other vessels, in a northbound convoy behind the ship, have been held at anchorages while the canal is cleared, GAC said on its website. A southbound convoy is also blocked, it said.

This satellite image from Planet Labs Inc. shows the cargo ship lodged across the waterwa (Reprodução/ CNN)

The passage accounts for approximately 30% of ship traffic globally each day. According to Reuters, with the alternative route of navigation between Asia and Europe – sailing around the African cover – it takes another week.

Nearly 19,000 ships, or an average of 51.5 ships per day, with a net tonnage of 1.17 billion tonnes passed through the canal during 2020, according to the Suez Canal Authority.

Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company said seven of its container vessels have been affected by the blockage, with four of its vessels stuck in the canal system while the rest are waiting to enter the passage, the Danish company said in a Wednesday statement.

Unlock

Re-floating the massive container vessel is “technically very complicated” and could take days, a senior canal pilot at the Suez Canal Authority told CNN. The official – who spoke on condition of anonymity as he’s not authorized to speak to the media – said that the equipment to float a ship is available but it depends on how it is used.

“If the method is not correct it might take a week, and if it’s done well it might take two days. But if it had been correct [in the first place], then the crisis could have ended yesterday”, the pilot said.

The official said that, due to the damage, the Ever Given is unlikely to be able to sail now and will probably need to be towed to the nearest parking site, the Great Bitter Lake District, about 30 kilometers to the north.

Gen. Ossama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority, second right, speaks to other staff onboard a boat near the stricken cargo ship (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

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