Suez Canal Shipping Backlog Ends, Days After Giant Vessel Freed

CAIRO – Ships passing through Egypt’s Suez Canal blow their horns as they make their way again through the strategic waterway. The head of the Suez Canal Authority, Oussama Rabieh, told Egyptian media Friday that all shipping traffic that was backed up from the blockage of the waterway caused by the gigantic Ever Given container ship should clear the canal Saturday.

He said that as of Friday 350 of the 422 backed up ships will have cleared the Suez Canal, meaning that the remaining 75 or so will go through on Saturday and new ships can start to transit.

The canal was reopened to shipping traffic after the Ever Given was refloated on March 29. The investigation into the causes of the accident are still taking place and Rabieh told Arab media that the process should be finished within the next several days.

The former head of the Suez Canal Authority, Mohab Mamish, told Saudi-owned al Arabiya TV that “one freak accident, which probably will not occur again, is not likely to spur talk of widening the canal, which would be very expensive. Talk about finding an alternate shipping route, he added, is not very practical

He said that there is no replacement for the Suez Canal. You can transit the canal in 12 hours under safe conditions, so just because there was one accident doesn’t mean we need to go looking for a new shipping route.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi told journalists this past week that the accident caused a media sensation, which placed a great deal of pressure on Egypt:

He said that any crisis that Egypt faces is difficult and has serious consequences for the well-being of the country. He noted that there was little talk about the canal for years until the recent accident and then it suddenly became a main topic of world media.

International shipping was severely disrupted by the almost one-week blockage of the Suez Canal, causing some ships to take the long route around the Cape of Good Hope. Egypt estimates that it lost approximately $1 billion in transit fees and in salvage work to refloat the ship.

Paul Sullivan, a professor at the Washington-based U.S. National Defense University, told VOA that “things got back to normal quicker than most thought possible … but the shipping industry and security services of the world need to prepare for the next problems in these very important global trade and international security choke points … such as the Strait of Hormuz, Malacca Straits, Panama Canal and the Bosphorus.”

Egypt earns between $5 billion and $6 billion each year in revenues from the canal.

Source: Voice of America

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