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Suez Canal Authority says it is close to clearing backlog after ship dislodged

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A container ship sails at the Suez Canal, in Ismailia
A container ship sails at the Suez Canal, in Ismailia, Egypt March 31, 2021. Suez Canal Authority/Handout via REUTERS

(Updated: )

CAIRO: The Suez Canal Authority said on Friday (Apr 2) it was close to clearing a backlog of shipping that built up when a giant container ship was grounded in the waterway.

Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chairman Osama Rabie told Egypt’s Extra News TV that 61 ships were still waiting and would pass on Saturday, down from 422 that were queuing by the time the Ever Given container ship was dislodged on Monday.

About 80 ships were passing through the canal on Friday in both directions, including a US aircraft carrier, a liquefied natural gas tanker, and an oil tanker, the SCA said in a statement.

READ: Investigator boards ship at start of probe into Suez Canal blockage

On Monday, salvage teams freed the Ever Given container ship, ending a crisis that had clogged one of the world’s most vital waterways and halted billions of dollars a day in maritime commerce. 

At the time, canal officials said that more than 420 ships had been waiting for the Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned ship to be freed so they could make the crossing.

Canal services firm Leth Agencies said on Friday that a total of 357 vessels have crossed the canal since the ship was re-floated by a flotilla of tugboats, helped by the tides.

READ: Commentary: Suez Canal incident reveals why global trade depends heavily on shipping with few alternatives

The Ever Given had crashed into a bank of a single-lane stretch of the canal about 6km north of the southern entrance, near the city of Suez. 

That forced some ships to take the long, alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip – a 5,000km detour that cost ships hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and other costs. Others waited in place for the blockage to be over.

The unprecedented shutdown, which raised fears of extended delays, goods shortages and rising costs for consumers, added to the strain on the shipping industry, already under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.

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