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Container ship Ever Given 'successfully refloated,' but the Suez Canal crisis isn't over yet

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Monday will be a critical day

Ziad Ahmed/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Update: After the original publication of this article, multiple reports indicated that the Ever Given was fully freed, and traffic through the Suez was planned to resume immediately. Experts have predicted that it will still take days to clear the backlog of ships that have accumulated in the canal.

Egyptian officials announced Monday morning that the massive container ship Ever Given, which has been blocking all traffic through the vital Suez Canal since it became wedged there almost a week ago, has been "successfully refloated," a major step toward ending the crisis that is costing the world billions of dollars a day. However, officials cautioned that they were still not certain when the ship could be moved to the holding area of the Bitter Lakes in order to allow traffic to resume and further indicated that the worst-case scenario, which would require the canal to remain closed for additional weeks, is still in play.

According to Egyptian officials, a massive dredging ship named the Masshour, which had been pumping tens of thousands of cubic feet of sand an hour, managed to free the stern of the ship, and then after a number of successful push and tow maneuvers with tugboats, 80% of the vessel's direction was restored.

Egyptian officials were optimistic Monday morning that high tide would allow the boat to regain full direction; however, the CEO of the company that owns the Ever Given struck a decidedly more pessimistic note, telling CNN that the bow was still stuck "rock solid" and raising the possibility that the ship might still need to be lightened by removing containers before it can be navigated to the Bitter Lakes. Because Egypt does not have the equipment on hand that would be required to safely remove containers from the Ever Given's deck, such a solution would mean that the canal could remain closed for weeks while the equipment is brought in, especially as the tide recedes in the coming days with the lunar cycle.

Egyptian officials did indicate that shipping through the vital waterway would resume as soon as the Ever Given was under way again and that the plan was to move the vessel to the Bitter Lakes — a holding area in the middle of the canal — for "technical inspection."

Experts also fear that if the Ever Given is not removed from the Suez within a very short time frame, the receding tides will thwart further rescue efforts for weeks, causing a catastrophic downstream effect on the global supply chain, which has already been severely strained by the coronavirus pandemic and the six days that the Ever Given has already been stuck.

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