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Questions raised over Egypt's handling of Suez Canal wedging Open in fullscreen

The New Arab Staff

Questions raised over Egypt's handling of Suez Canal wedging

Egypt’s Suez Canal [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 March, 2021

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The ship operated by the Taiwan-based firm Evergreen is considered one of the ten largest container carriers in the world and can carry a load up to 220 tons.

The wedging of a giant container ship across the Suez Canal this week has led to the worst shipping jam in years, opening questions around the Egyptian government's competance in running one of the world's busiest trade routes.

Rescue boats were at work on Thursday to free the 400 metre-long ship, which was knocked off course by strong winds.

The Ever Given lost its ability to steer on Tuesday and efforts to free the ship using eight tugboats, dredgers, and the aid of high tides in a bid to refloat it.

The ship operated by the Taiwan-based firm Evergreen ran aground diagonally across a key international trade route connecting Asia to Europe, which has a circulation of about 50 ships a day in 2019, according to Egyptian government statistics.

The official body kept quiet about the incident for over 24 hours as they began attempts to dislodge the ship and rescue its cargo.

Suez Canal Authority Chairman, Osama Rabie, issued a statement on Wednesday ascribing the event to "the lack of visibility resulting from bad weather conditions", including a sandstorm and strong winds of up to 75 kilometres per hour.

News began circulating on Tuesday evening when pictures of the giant container stranded sidewise appeared on social media. Egyptian media outlets were forced to wait for a official statement before being able to report on the blockage.

Speaking to journalists at the Ismailia Governorate in the early hours of Wednesday morning, a government official instructed reporters not to break the news, adding that a statement would be issued later in the day.

Egyptian media are known to be averse to publishing any negative news about the Suez Canal and economic institutions, or to publicise incidents considered unflattering for President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi's government.

While Egypt’s constitution contains language that nominally guarantees freedom of the media, the country was ranked "not free" by Freedom House in 2020.  

Read also: Suez Canal suspends traffic as bid to refloat grounded ship hits trouble

An estimated $9.6 billion worth of daily marine traffic have been halted as at least 150 ships wait for the passage to be reopened.

The Suez Canal Authority made no mention of having taken precautionary measures following the weather alerts issued on Tuesday by the Egyptian Meteorological Authority.

According to a cabinet source who spoke to The New Arab’s Arabic service on Wednesday, the Suez Canal Authority will conduct an inquiry to ascertain whether the ship had exceeded its maximum capacity.


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