Sandstorm, winds blamed for container ship fiasco in Suez Canal

Evergreen Marine container ship stuck in Suez Canal.

Officials say a sandstorm and high winds caused the ultra large container ship Ever Given to run aground Tuesday morning, blocking the Suez Canal.

Evergreen Marine, the Taiwanese transportation company that built and operates the Ever Given, said the ship was “suspected of being hit by a sudden strong wind, causing the hull to deviate … and accidentally hit the bottom and run aground.”

The Suez Canal Authority said in a statement Wednesday that 46-mph (40-knot) winds and a sandstorm caused low visibility and poor navigation. The accident may have resulted from a combination of those factors. It happened when the ship was en route from Yantian, China, to the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Related: Evergreen container ship blocks Suez Canal traffic

The Suez Canal, a major gateway for global ocean freight, is the shortest water route between Asia and Europe. Disruptions from the Evergreen incident could cause as much as $10 billion in losses each day, according to some experts.

Marine traffic through the Suez Canal remained blocked Friday after several attempts to dislodge the ship had failed. Dozens of ships were waiting at the north and south entrances. However, efforts to dislodge the Ever Given were picking up. While one of the teams in charge of the operation said it could take weeks, an Egyptian official gave a more optimistic timetable.

Mohab Mamish, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s adviser on seaports and the former chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, told the AFP news agency Thursday that navigation through the canal “will resume again within 48-72 hours, maximum.” If accomplished, this could have ships moving again over the weekend.

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