The massive container ship that ran aground in the narrow Suez Canal and sparked a massive backup in global shipping has been freed and is on the move, Egyptian officials said Monday morning.
An international team of tugboats and dredging companies were able to refloat the ill-fated Ever Given supertanker, benefiting from higher tides in the waterway that is critical to international commerce and oil traffic.
It was not clear how soon the full canal would reopen, with hundreds of tankers and container ships backed up at both the north and south ends of the canal. Still, the news was a relief to shippers and customers around the world after initial reports that the Japanese-owned ship could be stuck for weeks.
A salvage team was pulling the stricken Ever Given north toward the Great Bitter Lake, located in the center of the canal, for an inspection of possible structural damage, The Associated Press reported. Some 367 vessels are still waiting for clearance to enter the passageway from both ends, while some ships have given up and are taking alternate, more expensive routes to their destinations.
The wire service cited one estimate that it could still take more than a week to clear the backlog, which is said to be costing the global economy some $9 billion a day.
The container ship, one of the world’s largest, had been wedged into the canal with its bow stuck on one side and its stern wedged on the other. Dredgers were able to vacuum up sand and mud under the bow and a team of 10 tugboats finally managed to work the vessel free.