Ship Gets Stuck, Again, in Suez Canal, Blocks Traffic

A large ship got stuck, once again, in Egypt's Suez Canal, and wound up blocking traffic. USA Today reports that, on Thursday, a bulk carrier vessel — the Panama-flagged Coral Crystal — got wedged in the canal and briefly backed up one lane of the waterway. Notably, this is an issue as the canal only transits two convoys each day: a north-bound lane toward the Mediterranean, and another that sends ships southbound toward the Red Sea. 

The Coral Crystal reportedly "ran aground in a double-lane stretch of the canal" which forced shipping officials to have the other vessels pass by in the other lane. Eventually, two tugboats were able to get the ship unstuck, and it resumed its voyage. Admiral Ossama Rabei, who oversees all Suez Canal transportation, stated that the situation was a "very brief grounding," which was able to be rectified in a "professional manner." Geoge Safwat, the canal spokesman, added that "traffic was not negatively impacted in anyway," due to officials quickly redirecting other vessels to the opposite lane.

Roughly 10% of world trade flows through the Suez Canal, making it a crucial point of foreign financial income for Egypt. In 2020, around 19,000 vessels passed through the canal, per official data. This is not the first time a ship has gotten stuck in the Suez canal this year, as the Panama-flagged Ever Given became wedged for six days back in March.

Freeing the large ship, which is about the length of the Empire State Building, was not an easy task. It is one of the largest container ships in the world, weighing in at 220,000 tons. To help get the vessel back on course, the Suez Canal Authority enlisted the help of Boskalis, a salvage firm.

"We pulled it off!" said Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, per the Associated Press. "I am excited to announce that our team of experts, working in close collaboration with the Suez Canal Authority, successfully refloated the Ever Given ... thereby making free passage through the Suez Canal possible again." He later added that a strong tide "helped push the ship at the top while we pulled at the bottom and luckily it shot free." 

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"We were helped enormously by the strong falling tide we had this afternoon," Berdowski continued. "In effect, you have the forces of nature pushing hard with you and they pushed harder than the two sea tugs could pull." Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi later tweeted out the news, writing, "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."