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CAIRO — The shortest shipping route from Europe to Asia remained blocked on Wednesday (March 24) as 10 tug boats struggled to free one of the world's largest container ships after it ran aground in the Suez Canal.rr
The 400m, 224,000-tonne Ever Given ran aground on Tuesday morning after losing the ability to steer amid high winds and a dust storm, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said in a statement.rr
About 30 per cent of global container shipping volumes pass through the canal each day, carrying everything from fuel to consumer goods. The main alternative route for ships travelling between Asia and Europe, around the African cape, takes a week longer to navigate.rr
GAC, a Dubai-based marine services company, said authorities were still working to free the ship mid-afternoon on Wednesday, and that information it had received earlier claiming the vessel was partially refloated was inaccurate.rr
Images posted by the SCA appeared to show the ship positioned diagonally across the canal, blocking its full width, as tugs tried to dislodge it. Photos showed a digger removing earth and rock from the bank of the canal around the ship's bow.rr
An official said work to release the ship could continue into the night, weather permitting.rr
The SCA's chairman told local media that despite the blockage, a southbound convoy was on the move and that the authority was trying to keep traffic flowing between waiting areas as best it could while salvage efforts continued.rr
"Once we get this boat out, then that's it, things will go back to normal. God willing, we'll be done today," Chairman Osama Rabie said. The authority was considering compensation for delayed ships, he said.rr
About 12 per cent of world trade by volume passes through the canal, and it is a major source of hard currency for Egypt, generating US$5.6 billion (S$7.5 billion) in 2020.rr
Tracking maps had shown the ship grounded in the southernmost stretch of the waterway, between the Great Bitter Lake and the Red Sea port of Suez.rr
At least 30 ships were blocked to the north of the Ever Given, and three to the south, local sources said. Several dozen ships could also be seen grouped around the northern and southern entrances to the canal.rr
The SCA said it was trying to rebalance the ship, and local sources said efforts could shift towards digging the ship out if the tug boats were unable to release it.rr
Dutch marine services company Boskalis said its subsidiary Smit Salvage had been hired to help with the operation and was sending 10 people to Egypt.rr
In such cases, "you really have to do the calculations to understand how solidly she (is) grounded, and how much power you can exert without damaging the vessel," Boskalis spokesman Martijn Schuttevaer told Reuters.rr
Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), the ship's technical manager, said the Ever Given had run aground in the canal at around 5.40am GMT (1.40pm Singapore time) on Tuesday. It said an investigation was underway.