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Suez Canal unblocked after giant ship freed

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Egypt’s Suez Canal is set to reopen for shipping traffic in both directions after a giant container ship that had been blocking the busy waterway for almost a week was refloated, with more than 400 ships waiting to pass through.

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The Suez Canal Authority’s chairman Osama Rabie said the channel was navigable after the 400-metre-long vessel Ever Given was freed undamaged earlier on Monday.

“The ship came out intact and it has no problems. We’ve just searched the bottom and soil of the Suez Canal and thankfully it is sound and has no issues, and ships will pass through it today,” he told Nile TV.

The authority informed shipping agencies that convoys of ships will resume running both ways through the canal from 7pm on Monday, two agents told Reuters.

The Ever Given had become jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal in high winds early last Tuesday, halting traffic on the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.

Live footage on a local television station showed the ship surrounded by tug boats moving slowly in the centre of the canal on Monday afternoon.

The station, ExtraNews, said the ship was moving at a speed of 1.5 knots.

After dredging and excavation work over the weekend, rescue workers from the SCA and a team from Dutch firm Smit Salvage had succeeded in partially refloating the ship earlier on Monday.

The company said approximately 30,000 cubic metres of sand was dredged to refloat the 224,000-tonne container ship and a total of 11 tugs and two powerful sea tugs were used to pull the ship off.

At least 400 vessels are waiting to transit the canal, including dozens of container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vessels, Nile TV reported.

The authority said earlier it would be able to accelerate convoys through the canal once the Ever Given was freed.

It could take up to three days to clear the backlog and a canal source said more than 100 ships would be able to enter the channel daily.

About 15 per cent of world shipping traffic transits the Suez Canal, which is an important source of foreign currency revenue for Egypt.

-with AAP

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