Tugboat horns blared and salvage workers chanted Monday as one of the largest ships in the world was refloated and churned through the Suez Canal, opening a crucial global shipping lane that had been blocked for almost a week.
Hopes heightened that hundreds of waiting ships would soon be sailing through the canal. The tugs pulled the Ever Given to Great Bitter Lake, a wider stretch of water in the middle of the canal where the ship will undergo a technical inspection, canal authorities said.
“We pulled it off!” Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, the salvage firm hired to extract the Ever Given, said in a statement. “I am excited to announce that our team of experts, working in close collaboration with the Suez Canal Authority, successfully refloated the Ever Given … thereby making free passage through the Suez Canal possible again.”
It was not immediately clear when ships would again flow through the 120-mile-long waterway linking the Mediterranean and Red seas. The canal carries more than 10% of world trade. German insurer Allianz estimated the cost of the blockage at up to $10 billion a day.
Jeffrey Bergstrand, professor of finance at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, specializes in trade and the world economy. Bergstrand said the blockage ultimately should have little effect on the U.S.
“Since most of the imports blocked over the last week are heading to Europe, U.S. consumers will likely see little effect on prices of U.S. imports,” he said.
How the ship get stuck in the Suez Canal: The world’s heaviest traffic jam
The Panamanian-flagged cargo ship weighs 220,000 tons, is nearly a quarter-mile long and carries 20,000 containers. The ship, almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall, spun around and ran aground in high winds last Tuesday.
Workers dredged 30,000 cubic meters of sand – enough to fill about a dozen Olympic-size swimming pools – while more than a dozen tugboats labored for days to free the ship. The stern of the Ever Given, which had been grounded about 4 yards from the bank, finally was swung more than 100 yards from shore earlier Monday.
“This was the result of successful push and tow maneuvers, which led to the restoration of 80% of the vessel’s direction,” the Egyptian-owned Suez Canal Authority said in a statement.
Videos showed tugboats blaring their horns in celebration. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi lauded the effort on social media.
“Today, the Egyptians have succeeded in ending the crisis of the delinquent ship in the Suez Canal despite the tremendous technical complexity that surrounded this process from every side,” he tweeted.
Admiral Osama Rabie, who manages the authority, said the blockage cost his country about $13 million a day. He said the more than 360 ships awaiting passage could start sailing through the canal as soon as Tuesday.
The authority said it would take more than three days to clear the traffic jam. The global shipping company Maersk estimated it could take twice that long. The data firm Refinitiv estimated it could take more than 10 days.
Maersk said it has three vessels stuck in the canal and another 29 waiting to enter. The company had rerouted 15 vessels to sail around Africa, a time-consuming and expensive 3,100-mile detour. Removing some or all of the load in an effort to lighten the ship would have taken weeks and added to the backlog of ships awaiting passage.
“The ripple effects on global capacity and equipment are significant,” Maersk had warned in an advisory statement for customers.
Reinsurers that insulate insurance companies could face losses totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, the credit rating agency Fitch Ratings said. The firm said the ship owner’s protection and indemnity insurers probably will face claims from the owners of the cargo on the Ever Given and of the other ships facing losses related to perishable goods and supply chain disruptions.
“In addition, they may face claims from the Suez Canal Authority itself for loss of revenues,” the agency said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Suez Canal blockage: Vessel ‘partially refloated’ as workers resume efforts
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Suez Canal ship freed: Ever Given moving through Suez Canal