Giant ship finally freed, allowing Suez Canal to reopen

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Container ship Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal, Egypt on March 27, 2021.
Kristin Carringer/Maxar
Container ship Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal, Egypt on March 27, 2021. Kristin Carringer/Maxar

The Ever Given container ship stuck in the Suez Canal was finally pulled free, allowing the crucial trade route to reopen to traffic.

The vessel is now fully afloat, the Suez Canal Authority said in a statement. Tug boats hauled the giant vessel away from the side of the waterway, where it had been lodged since last Tuesday.

Efforts will now get under way to restart shipping navigation, with more than 450 vessels waiting near the canal. The backlog has strained global supply chains already stretched by the pandemic as the route is a conduit for about 12% of global trade.

Once the vessel is fully refloated and navigation on the canal resumes, ships will pass through at a rate of 100 a day to clear the backlog, a source said.

Vessel delays will effectively cut the available container shipping capacity on the route at a time when it's urgently needed, said Greg Knowler, senior European editor at IHS Markit's Journal of Commerce. Spot freight rates from China to northern Europe are up almost 400% year on year, he said.

"Even once the Ever Given is out of the way and the convoys resume, it will still take many days to clear the backlog of vessels at each end of the canal, then a week for the westbound container ships to reach ports in north Europe," Knowler said in a note. "That could see the Suez ships arriving around the same time as the dozens of vessels rerouted around Africa."

Brent crude dropped 0.6% to trade at $64.20 a barrel as of 14:16 (15:16 SA time) in London.

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