Speed Reads

Floating the boat

Giant ship blocking Suez Canal partially dislodged, starting to move

The bow of the massive container ship blocking the Suez Canal was dislodged early Monday, and a dozen tugboats are now working to put it on course to port so the canal can start clearing the costly backlog of ships waiting to pass through. "It is good news," said Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority. "We are not finished yet, but it has moved."

The 1,300-foot MV Ever Given wedged itself diagonally across the Suez Canal on Tuesday, blocking all traffic through the busy shipping route. At least 320 vessels are waiting to pass through from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean or vice versa, costing billions of dollars a day. Engineers have been working to clear the ship, digging the protruding bow out from the bank and vacuuming up sand from the bottom of the canal. They had been hopeful that high spring tides accompanying Sunday's full moon would aid the effort.

Salvagers cleared the rudder late Friday, allowing the Ever Given's engines to start, The Wall Street Journal reports. Along with intensive dredging efforts, the engineers trying to free the ship were waiting on specialized tugboats that arrived Sunday. It isn't clear how long it will take to clear the channel, which carries more than 10 percent of global shipping trade, or the backlog of ships. There are also concerns about the traffic jam disgorging into the Mediterranean, snarling European ports.

Success in clearing the Ever Given will be a relief not just for its Japanese owner, Taiwan-based operator, and the global shipping industry, but also for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi, the Journal reports. Sisi launched a $8.5 billion expansion of the Suez Canal in 2015, painting it as a way to boost government revenues after the tumult of the Arab Spring. "But the changes didn't boost state revenues, and the Ever Given threatened to further disrupt canal income," the Journal said, adding that the canal is still an important source of foreign currency.