Suez Canal Traffic Briefly Stopped As Oil Tanker Loses Power
Sunrise beyond commercial shipping at the entrance to the Suez Canal in Suez, Egypt. (Photographer: Islam Safwat/Bloomberg)

Suez Canal Traffic Briefly Stopped As Oil Tanker Loses Power

Traffic through Egypt’s Suez Canal was briefly halted on Tuesday, just two weeks after a giant container ship ran aground and blocked the waterway that’s vital for global trade.

The oil tanker Rumford needed to be towed by tug boats after experiencing engine problems, but was soon operational and the northbound convoy it was in was moving normally again, according to the Suez Canal Authority and Inchcape Shipping Services.

The SCA said navigation in the waterway was “unaffected” and 84 ships had crossed on Tuesday as of roughly 2 p.m. local time.

Six ships held up behind the stricken tanker were all on the move again by the same time, according to vessel tracking data monitored by Bloomberg.

On March 23, a 400-meter container ship, the Ever Given, became stuck in the southern part of the canal. It took almost a week to free it. It’s currently in the Great Bitter Lake, roughly halfway along the waterway.

That incident caused a backlog of hundreds of ships and Egypt said it may seek around $1 billion in compensation due to lost transit fees and damage to the canal from the salvage efforts.

Tuesday’s disruption serves as another reminder that the waterway is vulnerable to ships getting stuck or when they have engine problems. About 12% of world trade passes through the Suez Canal, which shaves thousands of miles off voyages between Asia and Europe.

The canal authority said in a statement it’s aiming to upgrade its rescue capabilities by adding some large tug boats. It’s also planning to build new so-called marine garages and deepen some existing ones.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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