Massive cargo ship becomes wedged, blocking Egypt’s Suez Canal

Tugboats strained on Wednesday to free a skyscraper-sized container ship that wedged across Egypt’s Suez Canal the day before, blocking all traffic, including shipments of oil, which led to a jump in the price of crude and concerns that the accident might increase gas prices.

a close up of a persons face: This satellite image from Planet Labs Inc. shows the cargo ship MV Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal near Suez, Egypt, Tuesday, March 23, 2021. A cargo container ship that's among the largest in the world has turned sideways and blocked all traffic in Egypt's Suez Canal, officials said Wednesday, March 24, 2021, threatening to disrupt a global shipping system already strained by the coronavirus pandemic. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP) (C) Provided by Boston Herald This satellite image from Planet Labs Inc. shows the cargo ship MV Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal near Suez, Egypt, Tuesday, March 23, 2021.

A cargo container ship that’s among the largest in the world has turned sideways and blocked all traffic in Egypt’s Suez Canal, officials said Wednesday, March 24, 2021, threatening to disrupt a global shipping system already strained by the coronavirus pandemic. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)

The Ever Given, a Panama-flagged ship that carries cargo between Asia and Europe, ran aground Tuesday in the canal dividing continental Africa from the Sinai Peninsula — an extraordinary event that experts said they had never heard of happening before in the 150-year history of the canal, through which 10% of world shipping traffic flows and which is particularly crucial to the transport of oil.

Load Error By Wednesday morning, more than 100 ships at each end of the canal were waiting for the canal to reopen, a feat that one official warned could take at least two days. Dean Foreman, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute, said “relatively little” of direct U.S. oil supply comes through the channel .

“An abundance of cost-effective U.S. oil production has helped to insulate American households and consumers,” Foreman said. But that didn’t stop the price of West Texas intermediate crude oil from increasing on Wednesday to £61.13 per barrel — up from £57.71 the day before at the close of U.S. markets. Oil produced in the United Kingdom and Norway jumped to £63.15 per barrel, up from £59.75 on Tuesday.

Whether drivers will see a change in gas prices at the pump will depend on how long the ship remains wedged in the canal, said Mary Maguire, director of public and government affairs at the Northeast branch of the American Automobile Association. “Whenever there is any concern about the supply or delivery of oil, it sends jitters through the oil and gasoline market,” Maguire said. “That potentially could push up prices at the pump.” It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the Ever Given to become wedged on Tuesday.

GAC, a global shipping and logistics company, said the ship had experienced a blackout. But Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, which manages the Ever Given, denied it ever lost power. Evergreen Marine Corp., a major Taiwan-based shipping company that operates the Ever Given, said the ship had been overcome by strong winds as it entered the canal from the Red Sea.

But it remained unclear how winds of 30 mph alone would have been able to push a fully laden vessel weighing some 220,000 tons. Tuesday marked the second major crash involving the Ever Given in recent years. In 2019, the cargo ship ran into a small ferry moored on the Elbe river in the German port city of Hamburg.

Authorities at the time blamed strong wind for the collision, which severely damaged the ferry.

Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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