A giant container ship remains stuck across Egypt’s Suez Canal after attempts to dislodge it on Saturday’s high tide failed.

Canal officials said some progress had been made, however, and more tugboats were joining the effort on Sunday.

Alternative arrangements are being put in place in case the operation fails.


Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has ordered preparations to lighten the load of the stranded ship.

That would involve transferring some containers to another vessel or to the canal bank. Experts earlier told the BBC that such an operation would involve bringing in specialist equipment, including a crane that would need to stretch more than 60m (200ft) high, and could take weeks.

The Suez Canal is one of the world’s busiest trade routes, and the Ever Given – part of the Evergreen fleet – has been wedged in it since Tuesday.

More than 300 ships are stuck on either side of the blockage and some vessels have had to reroute around Africa.

On Saturday 14 tugboats pulled and pushed the Ever Given at high tide to try to dislodge it. At the same time, dredgers continued to remove thousands of tonnes of sand and clay from where the bow was trapped in the canal’s bank.

Although strong tides and winds complicated efforts, the tugboats managed to move the ship “30 degrees from left and right”, said General Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA).

Footage posted on Twitter appeared to show the tugboats honking their horns to celebrate this small victory.

The SCA said in a statement that dredgers had so far shifted 27,000 cubic metres of sand to a depth of 18m (59ft).

Gen Rabie said on Sunday that although the vessel was still stuck there were “positive indicators” from the past two days’ efforts.


“The rudder was not moving and it is now moving, the propeller is working now, there was no water underneath the bow, and now there is water under it, and yesterday there was a 4m (13ft) deviation in the bow and the stern,” he told Egyptian state TV.

However, in a possible complication, SCA sources quoted by Reuters news agency said that a mass of rock had been discovered under the bow of the ship.

Gen Rabie said that President Sisi had ordered preparations for the possible removal of some of the ship’s 18,300 containers. He had previously said he hoped such an operation would not be necessary.

Initial reports said the 400m-long (1,300ft), 200,000-tonne vessel ran aground due to high winds and a sandstorm that affected visibility.

However, Gen Rabie said on Saturday that weather conditions were “not the main reasons” for the ship’s grounding.

“There may have been technical or human errors,” he told reporters, without giving details. “All of these factors will become apparent in the investigation.

Why is the Suez Canal so important?
About 12% of global trade passes through the 193km (120-mile) canal, which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea and provides the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe.


An alternative route, around the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa, can take two weeks longer.

According to data from Lloyd’s List, the blockage is holding up an estimated $9.6bn (£7bn) of goods each day – or $400m an hour.

Gen Rabie estimated that Egypt was losing up to $14m in revenue each day that the canal was closed.

In Syria, authorities have begun to ration fuel after supplies were held up by the stalled traffic in the Suez Canal. The war-torn country was already struggling with power cuts and inflation pushing up the price of goods.

British businesses are getting worried as Egypt’s Suez Canal continues to be blocked by a Taiwanese mega-container ship for the fourth day in a row.

Seaport Freight Services, a shipping and freight-forwarding company based at the Port of Felixstowe, has 20 containers of goods stranded on the Ever Given.

“We’re waiting on food goods like coconut milk and syrups, some spare parts for motors, we’ve got some fork lift trucks, some Amazon goods on there, all sorts,” Steve Parks, director of Seaport Freight Services, tells the BBC.


“All our customers are hearing about it, and they’re phoning us to ask when it will be resolved.”

The 400m-long (1,312ft) ship Ever Given, operated by Taiwanese transport company Evergreen Marine, is one of the world’s largest biggest container vessels.

The ship ran aground and became lodged sideways across the waterway on Tuesday after a gust of wind blew it off course.

It is blocking one of the world’s busiest trade routes, causing a huge tailback of other ships trying to pass through the Suez Canal, which separates Africa from the Middle East and Asia.

There are more than 160 vessels waiting at either end of the canal, according to tracking data from Lloyd’s List.

At the moment, Mr Park says there is only one way to get goods through – go round the Horn of Africa, which will add another seven days to the journey.

“We’ve had supply problems from the Far East, we’ve had Covid, we’ve had the Brexit changes. You couldn’t really make it up,” he says.

“Things were just starting to get better. We were just starting to get over the shortage of containers, the shortage of vessels, and then this happens.”

‘We’re about to run out of stock’
Mirical Emblems is a firm specialising in heat-applied print transfers for clothing and uniforms, based in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.

It has a shipment of raw material stuck on a boat in the Red Sea that is trying to get into the Suez Canal. The cost of the goods and the cost to ship them comes to £16,000.

The shipment is already delayed due to the pandemic, as the original ship it was meant to travel on was rerouted, and had to wait for the next vessel bound for the UK.

The ship with the raw material shipment is meant to dock at the Port of Southampton on 9 April.

But if the delivery continues to be delayed, Mirical Emblems will have to pay for a second shipment of the raw material and have it flown over from South Korea for three times the shipping cost – roughly £21,000 – because the firm can’t afford to upset its clients and affect their supply chains too.

“We’re about to run out of stock, and this is just another cost we could do without,” says Mirical Emblems’ managing director Jonathan Dul.

“The pandemic has caused our turnover to fall by 20%. We’ve increased costs due to Brexit and now we’re having delayed shipments and having to potentially buy materials twice.”