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The closure of the Suez Canal after the container ship broke down

The closure of the Suez Canal after the container ship broke down

CAIRO – A huge container ship was suspended while crossing the Suez Canal late on Tuesday, blocking traffic through one of the most important shipping arteries in the world and threatening to add an additional burden to the global shipping industry that has already been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The ship, which was heading from China to the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, ran aground amid poor visibility and strong winds from a sandstorm that hit most of northern Egypt this week, according to George Safwat, a spokesman for the port supervising authority. Channel. He said in a statement that the storm had caused “the inability to steer the ship.”

By Wednesday morning, more than 100 ships had been stranded at each end of the canal, which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean and carries nearly 10 percent of freight traffic around the world.

Dozens of tug boats raced to try to free it as crews brought heavy equipment to extract the land they were sitting on.

Lieutenant General Osama Rabie, head of the canal authority, said that the authority is reopening an old section of the canal to allow ships to pass through the waterway.

Almost every ship traveling from Asia to Europe passes through a 120-mile canal. Suez is also a passage for some ships carrying goods from Asia to the east coast of the United States, as well as a corridor from North Africa to the rest of the world. Only the Panama Canal looms large in the passage of goods around the world.

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Major General Rabie said in a statement that the Suez Canal will spare no effort to restore navigation and serve the global trade movement, adding that rescue units and eight tugboats continue to try to resurface the stranded ship on Wednesday morning.

If the authorities in Egypt manage to free the ship from the bottom of the canal and move it to the side of the waterway within two to three days, the ring will be a minor nuisance to the industry. Shipping companies generally build extra days into their schedules to account for delays on the way.

But if the extraction of the vessel proves to be more complicated, leading to the blockage of the Suez Canal for a longer period, that could pose a significant risk to an already overburdened industry. Global maritime trade was hit during the past year due to the epidemic, which reduced Egypt’s revenues from the canal by 3 percent to $ 5.61 billion in 2020.

“If that would be an indirect delay, you’d see ship accumulation and assembly upon arrival in Europe as well,” said Achilles Nair, vice president of global tanker management at SEKO Logistics in Hong Kong. “It’s just another factor we didn’t need.”

Pictures from the canal showed the container-laden ship – Evergreen, about a quarter of a mile long – sitting sideways across the canal at an angle so the name of the company operating it, Evergreen, could be read clearly from the ship behind. Its arch appeared to be stuck on the rocky east bank of the canal.

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“The ship in front of us ran aground as it passed through the canal and is now stuck sideways,” said an Instagram user @ fallenhearts17 Posted on Tuesday evening. “Looks like we might be here a little …”

The Suez Canal is a major artery for oil flow from the Persian Gulf region to Europe and North America. Roughly 5 percent of globally traded crude oil and 10 percent of refined petroleum products passed through the canal before the pandemic, according to estimates by David Fyfe, chief economist at Argus Media, a market research firm.

After the disruption of the channel, the international benchmark Brent crude oil price rose 2.85 percent on Wednesday to $ 62.52 a barrel.

But Mr Fyfe said that as oil demand remained relatively weak amid the pandemic, it was unlikely that the short-term disruption would have a lasting impact on the market.

“I don’t think this will fundamentally change the market sentiment,” he said. “A lot will depend on how quickly they can clean the ship.”

Vivian Ye I mentioned from Cairo, and Peter S. Goodman from London. Nada Rashwan He contributed to preparing reports from Cairo, Stanley Reed From London and Alexandra Stephenson From Hong Kong.

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