dpa/GNA – The pressure is mounting on Egypt to dislodge a massive container ship which has blocked the Suez Canal since Tuesday, as more shipping firms are rerouting their vessels away from the waterway.
The Panama-flagged ship, Ever Given, veered off its course in a single-lane stretch of the canal during a sandstorm on Tuesday.
The incident has resulted in a huge tailback. Some 321 vessels are awaiting to pass through the section, according to an estimate from head of the state Suez Canal Authority (SCA), Osama Rabae.
Some shipping companies have already said they will reroute their vessels.
International shipping firm CMA CGM Group said it will divert two vessels around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope to mitigate the impact of the incident on shipments.
Nineteen of its vessels were affected by the blockage, the firm said online. The firm operates over 560 vessels worldwide.
The Mediterranean Shipping Company, another large firm, has already announced it would redirect 11 vessels via the Cape of Good Hope.
But Rabae Sunday downplayed talk about shifting to alternative shipping routes.
“The Suez Canal will remain the safest and shortest route. We also provide good services,” he told private Egyptian TV Extra News.
The official said dredgers and tug boats were working round the clock to free the stuck mega-ship, which has already disrupted supply chains and sent ripples through global markets.
Two additional tug boats, including a Dutch boat, will join the operation later on Sunday.
He said that the propeller and rudder of the vessel had started to work again. An attempt was made Saturday night to free the ship by using the high tide, according to Rabae.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi has ordered preparations for the possibility of reducing the load of containers on the vessel to help free it, Rabae disclosed.
Rabae said that SCA may seek international assistance if the cargo needs to be offloaded, but he hoped that they would not have to resort to this lengthy process.
The 193-kilometre Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean and Red seas, providing the shortest shipping route between Asia and Europe.
At least 18,840 ships passed through the canal last year, according to Rabae.
The Suez Canal provides one of Egypt’s main sources of income, alongside tourism and remittances from expatriates.
Revenue from the waterway reached 5.6 billion dollars last year.