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Egypt runs to evacuate giant ship blocking Suez Canal

ISMAILA, Egypt (AP) – Cargo ships and specialized suction drains were working on Friday to unload a giant container ship that had been stranded in the Suez Canal in Egypt for the past three days, closing a major global cargo pipeline.

The Panamanian-flagged cargo ship Ever Given, which carries cargo through Asia “Europe”, sank in a narrow canal between Africa and the “Sinai Peninsula”. It sank in a stretch of canal, six kilometers (3.7 miles) north of the southern entrance near the city of Suez.

The ship, owned by the Japanese company Shoei Kisen KK, blocked the passage of the canal, causing a headache for world trade.

About 10% of world trade flows through the canal, which is especially important for oil transportation. The closure could also affect oil and gas shipments from the Middle East to Europe.

At least 150 ships were waiting to be cleared, including ships stranded on the Mediterranean coast of Port Said, the Red Sea port of Suez and ships stranded in Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake canal system, according to Leth, which provides canal services.

The ship remained on the ground as of Friday morning, Leth agencies added. It is unclear when the route will reopen.

The Egyptian official in charge of the Suez Canal described it as difficult to say that those trying to move the ship wanted to avoid complications that could prolong the closure of the canal. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, as he has no right to speak to journalists.

The bow of Ever Given touched the east wall, while its stiffness extended to the west wall.

A team from Dutch rescue company Boskalis began working with the canal management on Thursday. Rescue operations were aimed at draining sand and mud around the side of the ship’s bow port.

The body of the Suez Canal, which operates the waterway, has installed tugboats, a special absorbent dump truck capable of transporting 2,000 cubic meters of material per hour.

Late Thursday night, the Suez Canal Authority said it needed to remove 15,000 to 20,000 cubic meters (530,000-706,000 cubic feet) of sand to a depth of 12 to 16 meters (39 to 52 feet). That depth is likely to allow the ship to sail freely again, it said.

It was not immediately clear why Ever Given became a wedge on Tuesday. GAC, the global shipping and logistics company, said the ship had reported a shutdown without giving details.

Evergreen Marine Corp., which operates the ship, a major Taiwanese cargo company, said in a statement that the Ever Given was overcome by strong winds as it entered the canal from the Red Sea, but none of its containers sank.

The Suez Canal Authority also blamed bad weather for what happened.

Using data from ship-based automatic identification system controllers, Refinitiv shared data with AP that showed that more than 300 ships remained on the waterway over the next two weeks.

Some ships could still change course, but the sinking of the ships in which the Suez Canal was designated as a destination indicates that an even larger rectum is emerging for shippers already under pressure amid a coronavirus outbreak.

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