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The massive cargo ship that blocked the Suez Canal is now moving again

A handout picture released by the Suez Canal Authority on March 24, 2021 shows a part of the Taiwan-owned MV Ever Given, a 400-meter- (1,300-foot-) long and 59-meter-wide vessel, lodged sideways and impeding all traffic across the waterway of Egypt’s Suez Canal.

Suez Canal Authority/HO/AFP via Getty Images

Maxar’s WorldView-2 high-resolution satellite imagery of the Suez Canal and the container ship that was stuck in the canal, taken on March 26.

Satellite image (c) 2021 Maxar Technologies via Getty Images

An aerial view taken on March 27, 2021 from the porthole of a commercial plane shows stranded ships waiting in queue in the Gulf of Suez to cross the Suez Canal at its southern entrance near the Red Sea port city of Suez, as the waterway remains blocked by the Panama-flagged container ship MV Ever Given, which was wedged sideways about 6 km north of the canal’s entrance.


The state-run Suez Canal Authority (SCA) announced that nearly 17,000 cubic meters of sand have been dredged around the ship after navigation through the Suez Canal had to be temporarily suspended until the full refloating of the Panamanian massive cargo vessel, which ran aground on Tuesday, March 23, in the southern end of the Suez Canal and blocked the traffic in both directions. The ship turned sideways in the Canal while en route from China to Rotterdam, due to reduced visibility that resulted from a dust storm hitting the area, according to SCA.

Fadell Dawod/picture alliance via Getty Images

The container ship Ever Given is refloated, unblocking the Suez Canal on March 29, 2021 in Suez, Egypt. This morning, the container ship came partly unstuck from the shoreline, where it ran aground in the canal last Tuesday, and later resumed its course shortly after 3 pm local time.

After nearly a week of blocking one of the world’s most important maritime shortcuts, the massive Ever Given cargo ship is now free and on the move. “I am excited to announce that our team of experts, working in close collaboration with the Suez Canal Authority, successfully refloated the Ever Given on 29 March at 15:05 hrs local time, thereby making free passage through the Suez Canal possible again,” said Peter Berdowski, CEO of the salvage company Boskalis.

Owned by shipping company Evergreen, the 400-meter-long Ever Given is one of the longest ships ever built, dwarfing even the biggest nuclear aircraft carriers. The ship was caught in a storm on March 23 while transiting the Suez Canal, where a combination of high winds and the ship’s massive sail area turned it diagonally. At that point, the Ever Given ran aground and completely blocked the 152-year-old canal, which is less than a meter deep in many places outside of a dredged navigation channel.

The blockage—easily seen by space-based sensors—then started holding up hundreds of other ships trying to transit between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

For several days, workers on the ground in Egypt had tried to free the Ever Given from the bank of the canal, digging out the ship’s large, bulbous prow from the sand. Over the weekend, dredgers also went to work on the narrow section of the canal (under the front half of the Ever Given), moving tens of thousands of tons of mud in an attempt to free the big boat from its bondage.

Finally, on Monday, a combination of at least 14 tug boats and a high tide started making real progress, refloating the Ever Given and then, eventually, getting it moving again.

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