A skyscraper-sized cargo ship remains wedged in the Suez Canal, the first time in the canal’s 150-year history

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Ship blocking Egypt’s Suez Canal ran aground after dust storm

Authorities say the Ever Given, a 400-meter-long ship that weighs around 224,000 tons, was on its way to Rotterdam.

USA TODAY, Storyful

Efforts to unblock the Suez Canal in Egypt continued Thursday after a cargo vessel became stuck on Wednesday, forcing shippers to look for alternate routes to avoid global economic impact. 

The Suez Canal Authority said in a statement Thursday that navigation in the canal has been temporarily suspended. An official told the Associated Press Wednesday that resolving the issue would take at least two days. 

Images showed the bow of the Ever Given — a ship weighing 220,000 tons and over 1,300 feet long — touching the eastern wall of the canal, while its stern looked to be lodged against the western wall. Tugboats strained Wednesday to try to nudge the obstruction out of the way. 

The company that manages the vessel told AP there were no reports of injuries and all 20 members of the crew are safe. 

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the ship to become wedged, an event that experts say they had never heard of happening before in the canal’s 150-year history. 

Evergreen Marine Corp., a major Taiwan-based shipping company that operates the ship, said the Ever Given had been overcome by strong winds. An Egyptian official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to brief journalists, similarly blamed a strong wind.

An early report suggested the ship suffered a power blackout before the incident, something Ever Given manager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement denied Thursday, the Associated Press reported. “Initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding,” the company said.

As crews work to dislodge the ship Thursday, some shipping firms are considering other routes.

At least 150 ships are waiting for the ship to be cleared, canal service provider Leth Agencies told AP. Some are waiting near Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea, while others are near Port Suez on the Red Sea.

But there are also at least 13 ships stuck behind the Ever Given in the channel in the Bitter Lakes, according to the SCA’s statement. Leth said those ships — and eventually the Ever Given when it is freed — will have to be reversed back to Port Suez to clear the canal system. 

One possible reroute is around the southern tip of Africa that may extend the journey by a week, according to CNN. Shipping experts said the firms may be forced to take this journey if the blockage isn’t cleared within 48 hours. 

This would have major economic implications as the narrow, man-made canal is a vital waterway that sees shipments of essentials like food and oil.

The Suez Canal connects the West to the East and allows the shortest trip from Europe to Asia. It sees, on average, 50 vessels a day, Salvatore R. Mercogliano, a former merchant mariner told the Associated Press

“Every day the canal is closed … container ships and tankers are not delivering food, fuel and manufactured goods to Europe and goods are not being exported from Europe to the far East,” said Mercogliano, an associate professor of history at North Carolina’s Campbell University. 

Seven vessels stuck in traffic Wednesday were carrying some 5 million barrels of crude oil, according to data firm Refinitiv. Oil prices climbed by 4%, Business Insider reported. 

The Ever Given, built in 2018, is among the largest cargo ships in the world. At more than 1,300 feet long and 630 feet wide, it can carry up to 20,000 containers. It was traveling at 12.8 knots before the crash. 

Contributing: The Associated Press 

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