The massive container ship which has been blocking the Suez Canal for almost a week started to move on Monday, according to maritime traffic tracking sites, raising hopes the vital global trade route could soon be clear.
The MV Ever Given, longer than four football fields, has been wedged diagonally across the canal since Tuesday, strangling world supply chains and costing the global economy billions.
The stern of the boat has now moved away from the canal's western bank.
The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) had not published any official confirmation, and it is not yet clear when traffic along the canal will resume.
But in a statement published at around 5 am local time the SCA stated that "towing manoeuvres to refloat the container ship Ever Given have started with the help of 10 giant tugs."
Inchcape, a maritime services company, tweeted that the ship had been "successfully re-floated" and was "being secured."
The MV Ever Given was successfully re-floated at 04:30 lt 29/03/2021. She is being secured at the moment. More information about next steps will follow once they are known. #suezcanel #maritime pic.twitter.com/f3iuYYiRRi— Inchcape Shipping (@Inchcape_SS) March 29, 2021
A canal official, who requested anonymity, said that the team on the ground had started technical checks, and were reassured that the ship's motor was working.
SCA chief Osama Rabie had told an Egyptian news channel at the weekend that salvage crews were working round the clock.
They had focussed on efforts to remove sand around the ship, with 27,000 cubic metres (over 950,000 cubic feet) cleared at a depth of 18 metres (59 feet), SCA spokesman George Safwat said Sunday.
On Sunday evening a shipping company, Leth agencies, had said Egyptian authorities had decided more tugboats were needed to shift the vessel and had postponed the refloating attempt around Sunday's high tide.
The crisis has forced companies to choose between waiting or rerouting vessels around Africa, which adds a huge fuel bill, 9,000 kilometres (5,500 miles) and over a week of travel to the trip between Asia and Europe.
Each day of the blockade could be costing global trade some $6-10 billion, according to a study published Friday by German insurer Allianz.
That translates to some 0.2 to 0.4 percentage points of annual trade growth each week.
Authorities said 369 ships are currently stalled as they wait for the canal to reopen.
Russia offered assistance Sunday, following other countries including the United States that have made similar offers.
Cargo bound for Malta
Amongst the ships stranded in the Suez Canal are five which are bound for Malta.
They were due to arrive this week but might now take a further three to arrive at the Malta Freeport.
“The effects of this blocking will not be resolved once it re-opens, the ripple effect on the Freeport and businesses will be felt for weeks after,” Malta Freeport terminals CEO Alex Montebello told Times of Malta last week.
“The vessels carry a mix of containers, both transshipments works which are destined for other Mediterranean countries and also some cargo for local industry,” he said.
Some vessels have decided to bypass the Suez Canal and go through the Southern Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. For those that decide to take this route, vessels will still take around 14 days to arrive in the Mediterranean.
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