Suez Canal: Ever Given container ship ‘partially refloated’ in major breakthrough

The enormous container ship wedged across the Suez Canal has been “partially refloated”.

Video showed the stern of the gigantic Ever Given ship swing towards the canal bank, with voices heard shouting “praise be to God” and “God is great” in celebration as tug boats moved around it.

Local sources told Reuters news agency it had been straightened and returned to “normal course”, although it remains stuck.

The breakthrough came after canal services firm Leth Agencies said the vessel had been “partially refloated”, following intensive efforts to push and pull it with 10 tug boats and vacuum up sand with several dredgers at high tide.

Osama Rabei, the head of the Suez Canal Authority, confirmed the partial refloating after the ship responded successfully to “pull-and-push manoeuvres”.

He said workers had almost completely straightened the vessel’s course and that the stern had moved 102 metres (334 feet) from the canal bank.

The head of the parent company for the Dutch salvage team welcomed the news, but warned the rest of the job would not be easy.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a piece of cake now,” he said.

He said that water would now be injected under the ship’s bow to remove sand and clay but that containers may have to be removed if that was unsuccessful.

The oil price fell as news of developments in the canal emerged, with the price of Brent crude down by 2% to just over $63 (£46) a barrel.

It had been feared the Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned ship might be stuck for weeks.

Dredgers overnight shifted more than 27,000 cubic metres of sand – to a depth of 18m (59ft) – with work taking place around the clock.

Images show the giant container ship after it was finally dislodged enough for other vessels to pass. Pic: Suez Canal Authority
Images show the giant container ship after it was finally dislodged enough for other vessels to pass. Pic: Suez Canal Authority

Another powerful tug boat, Carlo Magno, was racing to the scene to join the efforts.

The skyscraper-sized Ever Given became stuck in Egypt’s Suez Canal last Tuesday and the resulting disruption to the vital waterway has held up £6.5bn in global trade each day.

Hundreds of other vessels remained trapped in the canal waiting to pass, carrying everything from crude oil to cattle.

More than two dozen vessels have opted for the alternative route between Asia and Europe around the Cape of Good Hope, adding around a fortnight to journeys and threatening delivery delays.

The 400m (1,312ft) long Ever Given became jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal in high winds.

As of Saturday, 321 boats were waiting to get through the canal, including dozens of container ships, bulk carriers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vessels.

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