SUEZ, Egypt — Salvage teams today set free a colossal container ship that has halted global trade through the Suez Canal, a canal services firm said, bringing an end to a crisis that for nearly a week clogged one of the world’s most vital maritime arteries.
Helped by the peak of high tide, a flotilla of tugboats managed to wrench the bulbous bow of the skyscraper-sized Ever Given from the canal’s sandy bank, where it had been firmly lodged since last Tuesday.
After hauling the fully laden 220,000-ton vessel over the canal bank, the salvage team was pulling the vessel toward the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south end of the canal, where the ship will undergo technical inspection, canal authorities said.
Satellite data from MarineTraffic.com confirmed that the ship was moving away from the shoreline toward the center of the artery.
The obstruction has created a massive traffic jam in the vital passage, holding up $9 billion each day in global trade and straining supply chains already burdened by the coronavirus pandemic.
It remained unclear when traffic through the canal would return to normal. At least 367 vessels, carrying everything from crude oil to cattle, have piled up on either end of the canal, waiting to pass.
Data firm Refinitiv estimated it could take more than 10 days to clear the backlog of ships. Meanwhile, dozens of vessels have opted for the alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip — a 5,000-kilometer (3,100-mile) detour that adds some two weeks to journeys and costs ships hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and other costs.
The freeing of the vessel came after dredgers vacuumed up sand and mud from the vessel’s bow and 10 tugboats pushed and pulled the vessel for five days, managing to partially refloat it at dawn.