An oil tanker briefly became stuck in Egypt’s Suez Canal on Wednesday night, officials announced, raising fears that last year’s major blockage of the global maritime route could be repeated.
The Affinity V “ran aground in the Suez Canal at 19:15 local time”, a security source told news agency AFP, adding that maritime traffic had been restored after “a short period of time”.
The incident was caused by “technical damage to the rudder resulting in a loss of control of the ship”, according to the Suez Canal Authority, which said the 64,000-ton tanker had been “successfully refloated”.
The SCA said it had quickly mobilised more than five towing vehicles for the operation.
According to website Vessel Finder, the 250-meter-long, Singaporean-flagged tanker is headed for the Saudi port of Yanbu.
The Suez Canal, a vital shipping route between Asia and Europe, is used by about 10 per cent of the world’s maritime trade.
Last year, super tanker Ever Given, owned by Taiwan-based transport company Evergreen Marine, became wedged diagonally across the canal during a sandstorm, disrupting world trade for nearly a week.
According to the SCA, Egypt lost between US$12 million ($17.5 million) and US$15 million ($22 million) every day of the closure, while insurers estimated the global maritime trade suffered billions of dollars of lost revenue per day.
One of the world’s largest container ships, the Ever Given was the size of the Empire State Building and heavier than 30 Eiffel Towers, capable of carrying 20,000 containers of cargo.
When it got stuck, the estimated value of its cargo was more than US$1.1 billion ($1.6 billion), much of it fruit and vegetables which later had to be destroyed.
The Ever Given container ship was stuck for six days in the Suez Canal in March, 2021. Source: AAP / USA TODAY Network/Sipa USA
During the six days the canal was blocked, almost 400 cargo ships were held up at either end. The blockage was solved within a week, but the effects took months to subside.
Global oil prices fluctuated due to delays in supplies, markets for other commodities such as superconductors also took a hit and the effects on global supply chains were still being felt months later.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved a project in May to widen and deepen the southern portion of the canal where the Ever Given had gotten stuck.