Shouts of celebration as gigantic Suez Canal ship ‘partially refloated’

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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.

Pic: picture-alliance/dpa/AP
Image: The gigantic vessel after it was partially refloated Pic: picture-alliance/dpa/AP

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.

Reports have suggested that officials believe the ship will be fully refloated and that operations will resume on the canal today.

More from Egypt

“Within five hours’ time, the container ship will be completely floated. We expect to start operations in Suez Canal by the end of the day,” a senior official of Wilhelmsen Ships Service, which manages transit operations in Suez Canal, told the Money Control website.

Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al Sisi appeared to suggest the problem had now been resolved.

  • Before the Ever Given became stuck, ships moved freely through the canal. The graphic below shows movement along a number of routes into and out of Port Said in the north, in the Mediterranean Sea. On the 23 March, to the south in the Gulf of Suez, the yellow dot of the Ever Given appears as it moves into the canal and then gets stuck. Most ships remain at either end – but several remain halfway though in the Great Bitter Lake.
Pic: Planet Labs Inc /AP
Image: Pic: Planet Labs Inc /AP

“Today, the Egyptians have succeeded in ending the crisis of the delinquent ship in the Suez Canal despite the tremendous technical complexity that surrounded this process from every side,” he said.

“I thank every loyal Egyptian who contributed technically and practically to ending this crisis. Today, the Egyptians have proven that they are always responsible, and that the canal they dug with the bodies of their ancestors and defended Egypt’s right to it with the souls of their forefathers .. will continue to bear witness that the Egyptian will go where the Egyptians decide.”

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.

Pic: Maxar Technologies/Reuters
Image: Pic: Maxar Technologies/Reuters

A graphic shows the stranded ship after its partial refloating in Suez Canal
Image: A graphic shows the stranded ship after its partial refloating in Suez Canal

Although the development marked the vessel’s most significant movement since getting stuck last week, the salvage crew urged caution.

“Don’t cheer too soon,” said Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, the salvage firm hired to extract the Ever Given.

“The good news is that the stern is free but we saw that as the simplest part of the job.”

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.

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.

Pic: AP
Image: Pic: AP

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

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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