Cairo, Egypt, March 29 – The massive container ship which has been blocking the Suez Canal for almost a week started to move on Monday, according to maritime traffic tracking sites, raising hopes the vital global trade route could soon be clear.
The MV Ever Given, longer than four football fields, has been wedged diagonally across the canal since Tuesday, strangling world supply chains and costing the global economy billions.
The stern of the boat has now moved away from the canal’s western bank, according to the Vesselfinder and myshiptracking sites, a fact confirmed by an AFP source at the canal.
The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) had not published any official confirmation, and it is not yet clear when traffic along the canal will resume.
But in a statement published at around 5 am local time (0300 GMT), the SCA stated that “towing manoeuvres to refloat the container ship Ever Given have started with the help of 10 giant tugs.”
Inchcape, a maritime services company, tweeted that the ship had been “successfully re-floated” and was “being secured.”
A canal official, who requested anonymity, said that the team on the ground had started technical checks, and were reassured that the ship’s motor was working.
SCA chief Osama Rabie had told an Egyptian news channel at the weekend that salvage crews were working round the clock.
They had focussed on efforts to remove sand around the ship, with 27,000 cubic metres (over 950,000 cubic feet) cleared at a depth of 18 metres (59 feet), SCA spokesman George Safwat said Sunday.
On Sunday evening a shipping company, Leth agencies, had said Egyptian authorities had decided more tugboats were needed to shift the vessel and had postponed the refloating attempt around Sunday’s high tide.
The crisis has forced companies to choose between waiting or rerouting vessels around Africa, which adds a huge fuel bill, 9,000 kilometres (5,500 miles) and over a week of travel to the trip between Asia and Europe.
Each day of the blockade could be costing global trade some $6-10 billion, according to a study published Friday by German insurer Allianz.
That translates to some 0.2 to 0.4 percentage points of annual trade growth each week.
Authorities said 369 ships are currently stalled as they wait for the canal to reopen.
Russia offered assistance Sunday, following other countries including the United States that have made similar offers.
In a sign of the knock-on effects, authorities in war-wracked Syria said the crisis had hit its fuel imports from Iran and forced it to ration already scarce supplies.
Romania’s animal health agency said 11 ships carrying livestock out of the country were also impacted, with the charity Animals International warning of a potential “tragedy” affecting some 130,000 animals.