On Wednesday, a pair of ships straddled both sides of Egypt’s famed Suez Canal for a few hours, but no vessels were stuck in the waterway as tugboats moved them away from each other. The incident is a reminder of the dangers that can arise in the vital shipping lane after a massive container ship became wedged diagonally across the canal in 2021, disrupting global trade for days.
According to shipping tracker Marine Traffic, the two vessels, the Singapore-flagged BW Lesmes and Cayman Islands-flagged Burri, were moored at a southbound canal entrance early Wednesday. Its website showed the BW Lesmes stopped and pointing north, while the oil products tanker Burri was moored and pointed south about 19 km from the canal’s southern end at 2:55 a.m.(2355 GMT). Both had made their last port call at the port of Port Said to the north. Marine Traffic shared a time-lapse of their movements on microblogging site X, formerly Twitter. At one point, the time-lapse shows the Burri turning sideways before backing up and pointing straight.
The company said neither ship was damaged in the collision, and the canal’s operation was not interrupted. It did not provide more details on what caused the collision. The company that manages the BW Lesmes, the Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., said it was “looking into all options for refloating” the vessel. It said initial investigations “rule out any mechanical or engine failure.”
Both the Lesmes and the Burri are awaiting instructions from the Suez Canal Authority to continue their voyages, the company said in a statement. “We are confident that the Suez Canal will continue to operate safely and effectively,” it added.
The canal connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, bypassing the much longer route around Africa and the Indian Ocean. It is an open cut without locks, with extensive straight lengths but eight major bends, carved through the low-lying delta of the Nile River and the higher Sinai Peninsula. It is a crucial global trade route, carrying about 12% of the world’s cargo and causing significant disruptions when closed.
An Egyptian news channel reported that the canal’s director told a TV channel Sunday that authorities were trying to get more tugboats in place and expected to resume operations Monday at dawn, coinciding with high tides. The channel, Al-Masry, did not provide further details.
An Egyptian official told Reuters that the dredger that was due to arrive to free the Ever Given would only be ready by Tuesday, but the effort to clear the canal is likely to take months if not years. What will happen to the cargo on board still needs to be made clear, including whether the owners will attempt to remove the containers. The move could significantly impact the movement of goods in global supply chains, adding to existing challenges in the COVID-19 pandemic.