Suez Canal blocked by stranded ultra-large container ship
Egypt's Suez Canal, one of the world's most important waterways, has been blocked after an ultra-large container ship operated by Evergreen ran aground on Tuesday.
The ship that's among the largest in the world turned sideways due to a 50 km/h (31 m/h) gust of wind, according to officials. An Egyptian official who spoke to the Associated Press confirmed that efforts to remove the ship would take at least two days.
The situation has already led to at least 100 vessels being blocked from passing through, and threatens to disrupt a global shipping system already strained by the coronavirus pandemic.
It is unclear to what extent the perishables sector will be affected by the blockage.
About 10% of global trade passes through the Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, providing the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe.
The Ever Given, registered in Panama, was bound for the port city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands from China and was passing northwards through the canal on its way to the Mediterranean.
The 200,000 ton ship, built in 2018 and operated by Taiwanese transport company Evergreen Marine, ran aground and became lodged sideways across the waterway at about 07:40 local time on Tuesday.
Evergreen Marine said the ship was "suspected of being hit by a sudden strong wind, causing the hull to deviate... and accidentally hit the bottom and run aground".
The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said it was working to refloat the giant ship, using rescue and tug units, according to AFP news agency. Its chairman, Admiral Osama Rabie, also said they had reopened an older section of the canal to ease the bottleneck of marine traffic caused by the incident.
"This is the largest vessel ever to go aground in the Suez Canal," Dr Sal Mercogliano, a maritime historian based in the US state of North Carolina, told the BBC, adding that the ship got lodged in the embankment and would have lost power and its ability to steer.
"If they are unable to pull her free... in a high tide, they are going to have to start removing cargo."