Egypt’s Suez Canal blocked by huge container ship

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A giant container ship the length of four football pitches has become wedged across Egypt’s Suez Canal, blocking one of the world’s busiest trade routes.

Dozens of vessels are stuck, waiting for rescue boats to free the 400m-long (1,312ft) ship, which was knocked off course by strong winds.

Egypt has reopened the canal’s older channel to divert some traffic until the grounded ship can move again.

The blockage sent oil prices climbing on international markets.

About 12% of global trade passes through the Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and provides the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe.

The Ever Given, registered in Panama and operated by the shipping company Evergreen, was bound for the port city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands from China and was passing northwards through the canal on its way to the Mediterranean.

The 200,000 tonne ship, built in 2018 and operated by Taiwanese transport company Evergreen Marine, ran aground and became lodged sideways across the waterway at about 07:40 local time (05:40 GMT) on Tuesday.

At 400m long and 59m wide, the ship has blocked the path of other vessels which are now trapped in lines in both directions.

The company that manages the container ship, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), has denied earlier reports that the ship had already been partially refloated.

In a statement, it said its “immediate priorities are to safely re-float the vessel and for marine traffic in the Suez Canal to safely resume”.

Experts have warned the process could take several days.

Reuters, quoting local sources, says there are at least 30 ships blocked to the north of the Ever Given, and three to the south.

Evergreen Marine said the ship was “suspected of being hit by a sudden strong wind, causing the hull to deviate… and accidentally hit the bottom and run aground”.

BSM confirmed on Wednesday that all crew were “safe and accounted for”, with no reports of injuries.

Eight tug boats are working to refloat the ship, and diggers on the ground have been removing sand from where it is wedged into the side of the canal bank.

Dr Sal Mercogliano, a maritime historian based in the US state of North Carolina, told the BBC that incidents such as this were rare, but could have “huge ramifications for global trade”.

Fears that the blockage could tie up shipments of crude oil caused prices to rise by 4% on international markets on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

The Kpler energy intelligence service said that more than 20 oil tankers carrying crude and refined products were affected by the jam

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