Home >News >World >Suez Canal backlog clears, and maritime traffic returns to normal

Suez Canal authorities said Saturday they have cleared the massive traffic backlog that resulted when a giant container ship got stuck and blocked the important waterway, disrupting global trade.

More than 400 vessels that were waiting at the northern and southern ends of the 120-mile waterway on March 23 when the Ever Given ran aground have passed through the canal since Monday, authorities said.

New ships were entering the waterway, returning movement to normal, they said, and marking the end of a 12-day saga that upended the maritime shipping industry and strained already struggling global supply lines.

On March 23, the bow of the 1,300-foot Ever Given veered into the eastern bank of the canal. Over six days, engineers and sailors worked around the clock to dislodge the ship, operated by Taiwan-based Evergreen Group.

It was finally freed on March 29 when an unusually high spring tide helped the vessel’s release.

The unblocking has eased the passage of ships carrying everything from oil and gas to consumer goods and livestock. Furniture giant IKEA of Sweden and Caterpillar Inc., as well as mom-and-pop retailers and manufacturers, all had cargoes stuck.

While the canal’s average daily traffic totals 40 to 50 ships, the Suez Canal Authority, which manages the waterway, said 85 vessels crossed Saturday. Leth Agencies, a ship-services provider in the canal, said 442 vessels had cleared the waterway since March 29. Some 87 new vessels were awaiting northbound transit from the Red Sea and 69 ships waiting to move south from the Mediterranean, as of Saturday, it said.

To help clear the backlog, vessels appear to have been traveling faster through the canal. According to the Suez Canal Authority, the maximum speed allowed is between 7.6 and 8.6 knots, but ship-tracking website Marine Traffic showed many the ships were traveling around 8 and 10 knots in recent days.

Opened in 1869, the Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea and eases trade between Europe and Asia. The waterway carries as much as 13% of global maritime trade and 10% of seaborne oil shipments. About $400 million of cargo normally flows through the canal every hour, according to U.S. data analytics company Dun & Bradstreet.

Some vessels waiting to pass through the canal had already given up and begun the longer route to Europe around the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa, adding two weeks to their journeys.

The focus will now turn to a probe into how the Ever Given grounded. Investigators are still determining exactly what happened, saying a strong storm and high winds could have been a factor.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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