By JOHN GAMBRELL, associated Press
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – The largest cargo container ship in the world has diverted all routes to Egypt’s Suez Canal and blocked all traffic, officials said Wednesday, from an epidemic of coronavirus virus Threats to disrupt a global shipping system already affected.
The MV Ever Given, a Panama-flagged container ship that trades between Asia and Europe, on Tuesday converted into narrow, man-made waterway dividing continental Africa from the Sinai Peninsula.
It was not immediately clear what led to the conversion of Ever Gain into the canal. The global shipping and logistics company GAC described Ever Giving as “a victim without a blackout nor crossing in the direction” without a detailed explanation.
Evergreen Marine Corp, a major Taiwan-based shipping company that operates the ship, said in a statement to the Associated Press that Ever Giving was overcome by strong winds as it entered the Suez Canal from the Red Sea, But it had none of it. The containers were submerged.
An Egyptian official, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to brief reporters. Egyptian forecasters reported that high winds and a sand storm devastated the area on Tuesday, with winds gusting up to 50 kilometers per hour (31 mph).
“All crew are safe and accounted for,” said Bernhard Schulte Shipman, who manages Ever Gives. “There have been no reports of injuries or pollution.”
The bow of Ever Giving was touching the eastern wall of the canal, while its link was recorded against its western wall, according to satellite data from MarineTrafish.com. Several tug boats surrounded the ship, possibly attempting to push it right, data showed.
In a photo posted on Instagram by a user on another waiting cargo ship, the satellite appears anytime across the canal as shown in the data.
The Egyptian official said the tugboats expected the ship to return and the operation would take at least two days. The ship was surrounded by a single lane about 6 kilometers (3.7 mi) north of the southern mouth of the canal near the city of Suez.
Salvatore R., it has been warned, could have a major impact for global shipping moving between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Mercogliano, a former merchant mariner and associate professor of history at Campbell University in North Carolina.
“Every day, an average of 50 ships pass through that canal, so the closure of the canal means that no ships are heading north and south,” Mercogliano told AP. “Every day the canal is closed … Container ships and tankers are not delivering food, fuel and manufactured goods in Europe and goods are not being exported from Europe to the Far East.”
Canal officials could not be immediately reached by AP early Wednesday.
Evert Giving listed his destination as Rotterdam in the Netherlands before being trapped in the canal. Built in 2018 with a length of approximately 400 meters (a quarter mile) and a width of 59 meters (193 ft), the ship is one of the largest cargo vessels in the world. It can carry some 20,000 containers at a time.
Opened in 1869, the Suez Canal provides an important link for the shipping of oil, natural gas and cargo from east to west. About 10% of the world’s trade flows through waterways and is one of Egypt’s top foreign exchange earners. In 2015, the government of President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi completed a major expansion of the canal, allowing it to accommodate the world’s largest ships. However, the Eiver given preceded that new part of the canal.
The incident affects just the latest to affect the epidemic on Tuesday. Hundreds of thousands have been trapped in ships due to the epidemic. Meanwhile, demand on shipping has increased, adding to the pressure on exhausted sailors, Mercogliano said.
“This is due to the breakdown of global shipping speed right now and shipping is very timely,” he said. “Add to this that mariners have not been able to get ships on and off due to COVID restrictions.”
Authors from the Associated Press Taipei, Taising Wu in Taiwan, Sammy Maggie in Cairo and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.
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