The Ever Given, the massive container ship that had blocked the Suez Canal for more than five days, is once again on the move.
The ship has finally been dislodged from both banks of the global trade route after it ran aground last Tuesday, setting off a frantic effort to free it before the world plunged too deeply into an international supply chain crisis.
“She’s free,” an official involved in the salvage operation said.
Tugboats were pulling the Ever Given toward the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water in the middle of the Suez Canal, for a technical inspection.
The Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest trade routes, became blocked when the ship’s operators said it was blown off-course by strong winds during a sandstorm. Shipping experts also suggested human error may have caused the behemoth to shift sideways, lodging both the bow and stern in the sandy banks on either side of the canal.
The Ever Given is one of the largest container ships in existence, nearly as long as the Empire State Building is tall. It’s loaded with some 18,000 containers and weighs 220,000 tons, and dislodging it from both banks represented a complex and fraught engineering challenge.
The severing of the shipping artery had near-immediate impacts on global trade. Syria said it would begin rationing the use of fuel until the canal was once again open and analysts estimated the blockage was holding up almost £7.2bn in trade every day, The New York Times reported.
Early Monday, the chair of the Suez Canal Authority announced the 1,300-foot ship had been dislodged from the eastern bank of the canal and tug boats were shepherding it back on course.
“It is good news,” Osama Rabie, the chair of the canal, told The Wall Street Journal.
Traffic could begin coursing through the Suez Canal soon, although there are currently more than 450 ships stuck in a logjam and it’s unclear how long it will take to clear the backlog.