CAIRO, Egypt — The giant container ship that has blocked traffic in the Suez Canal, bringing a key global trade route to a standstill and capturing the world’s attention, was partially refloated early Monday.
The Ever Given “has successfully floated after the ship responded to the pulling and towing maneuvers,” Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, said in a statement.
The stern of the ship was now 102 meters (334 feet) from the shore, he added.
Both the canal authority and Inchcape, a separate maritime logistics company that manages shipping in the canal, said that the 1,400-foot long vessel’s position had now been straightened by 80 percent.
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The skyscraper-sized ship jammed diagonally across a southern section of the Suez Canal on Tuesday, leaving a total of 367 ships, including dozens of container ships and bulk carriers, unable to use the key trading route as of Monday morning.
Dredgers worked over the weekend to dislodge the stranded vessel, shifting some 27,000 metric tons of sand to a depth of 60 feet, the canal authority said Sunday.
A total of 14 tugboats were conducting pulling maneuvers from three directions to dislodge the ship, it added.
The maneuvers were due to resume again when the tide brings the water level back up.
Maritime traffic will resume once the ship is directed toward the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between north and south end of the canal, where it will undergo technical examination, the authority said.
Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the company that owns the vessel, told NBC News early Monday that the ship was not yet refloated and that the rescue operation had been put on pause because the water level, which has posed challenges throughout the process, had receded again.
The company had previously said it was considering removing containers if other refloating efforts failed.
The stranded Panama-flagged and Japanese-owned ship had halted all traffic across the canal. Experts feared it could take weeks to free it and clear the blockage of a route that accounts for about 12 percent of global trade.
The Suez Canal usually allows 50 cargo ships pass daily between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, providing a vital trade corridor between Europe and Asia.
The closing threatened to disrupt oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East. Already, Syria had begun rationing the distribution of fuel in the war-torn country because of concerns about delays of shipments arriving, The Associated Press reported.
Shipping rates for oil product tankers nearly doubled after the ship became stranded, Reuters reported, and the blockage has disrupted global supply chains, already strained by Covid-19 restrictions.
If the blockage dragged on, shippers may have been forced to reroute their cargoes around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa, adding about two weeks and extra fuel costs to journeys.
Charlene Gubash reported from Cairo, Arata Yamamoto reported from Tokyo, and Richie Duchon reported from Los Angeles.
Arata Yamamoto contributed.