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Suez Canal blockage: Vessel ‘partially refloated’ as workers resume pulling maneuvers

A canal services firm announced early Monday that salvage teams “partially refloated” the colossal container ship that is wedged across the Suez Canal, without providing further details about when the vessel would be set free.

Leth Agencies said early Monday that the modest breakthrough came after intensive efforts to push and pull the ship with 10 tugboats and vacuum up sand with several dredgers at spring tide. The firm said it was awaiting confirmation of the refloating from the Suez Canal Authority. Lt. Gen. Osama Rabei, the head of the Suez Canal Authority, said workers continued “pulling maneuvers” to refloat the vessel early Monday. Workers had been trying to take advantage of high tides helped by a full moon Sunday night, a pilot with the Suez Canal Authority told The Associated Press. The full moon offers a spring tide, or king tide, in which high tides are higher and the low tides are lower because of the effects of gravity during a straight-line alignment of the Earth, the moon and the sun.

Removing some or all of the cargo could add days to the effort to clear the Japanese-owned ship from the canal. Hundreds of ships await passage. The canal is operated by Egypt through its state-owned Suez Canal Authority. The 120-mile-long shipping link between the Mediterranean and Red seas carries about 13% of world trade, estimates German insurer Allianz.

“We calculate that each day of immobilization could cost global trade $6 billion to $10 billion,” Allianz said in a statement. In the U.S., the blockage could worsen months long snarls in the global supply chain, causing shortages of products such as toilet paper, coffee and furniture in the U.S.

A prolonged closure could also push energy prices higher – almost 2 million barrels of oil pass through the canal daily. The closure could affect oil and gas shipments heading north to Europe and elsewhere from the Middle East. Syria has begun rationing fuel amid concerns of delays of shipments. Some shipping companies are redirecting vessels all the way around Africa, thinking it will be faster than waiting what could be several more days to see the canal reopened – and then several more days for the backlog of ships to move through it.

The Ever Given, as long as a toppled skyscraper, was sailing north through the canal en route to Rotterdam, Netherlands with two canal pilots on board when it became stuck in the mud.

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