FILE PHOTO: Members of security forces ride on a patrol boat as a ship is seen after sailing through Suez Canal as traffic resumes after a container ship that blocked the waterway was refloated, in Ismailia, Egypt, March 30, 2021. REUTERS/Hanaa Habib

Suez Canal Traffic Briefly Stopped as Oil Tanker Loses Power

Bloomberg
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April 6, 2021

By Jack Wittels and Salma El Wardany (Bloomberg) —

Traffic through Egypt’s Suez Canal was briefly halted on Tuesday, just two weeks after a giant container ship ran aground and blocked the waterway that’s vital for global trade.

The oil tanker Rumford needed to be towed by tug boats after experiencing engine problems, but was soon operational and the northbound convoy it was in was moving normally again, according to the Suez Canal Authority and Inchcape Shipping Services. (Note: Behind Rumford was the Greek-flagged crude oil tanker Minerva Nike, which was also stopped briefly before getting underway again.)

The SCA said navigation in the waterway was “unaffected” and 84 ships had crossed on Tuesday as of roughly 2 p.m. local time.

Six ships held up behind the stricken tanker were all on the move again by the same time, according to vessel tracking data monitored by Bloomberg.

On March 23, a 400-meter container ship, the Ever Given, became stuck in the southern part of the canal. It took almost a week to free it. It’s currently in the Great Bitter Lake, roughly halfway along the waterway.

That incident caused a backlog of hundreds of ships and Egypt said it may seek around $1 billion in compensation due to lost transit fees and damage to the canal from the salvage efforts.

Tuesday’s disruption serves as another reminder that the waterway is vulnerable to ships getting stuck or when they have engine problems. About 12% of world trade passes through the Suez Canal, which shaves thousands of miles off voyages between Asia and Europe.

The canal authority said in a statement it’s aiming to upgrade its rescue capabilities by adding some large tug boats. It’s also planning to build new so-called marine garages and deepen some existing ones.(Updates with more details.)

–With assistance from Anthony Di Paola and Julian Lee.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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