Hundreds of boats piled up into a massive traffic jam on the crucial shipping lane as tugboats and diggers tried to free the vessel.
“Ship in front of us ran aground while going through the canal and is now stuck sideways,” Julianne Cora, an engineer on the Maersk Denver, wrote on an Instagram post showing her ship stuck behind the Ever Given. “Looks like we might be here for a little bit.”
As of early Wednesday morning, live satellite maps from MarineTraffic.com show the Ever Given still wedged across the canal and surrounded by a half dozen tug boats working to free it.
The Ever Given, which is owned by the Taiwanese firm Evergreen Marine and flagged in Panama, belongs to a modern class of massive cargo ships that can carry up to 220,000 tons of containers.
On Tuesday morning, the boat left Suez, Egypt, south of the canal, and headed north, according to GAC, a shipping logistics firm. But around 7:40 a.m. local time, it somehow ran aground.
“The container accidentally ran aground after a suspected gust of wind hit it,” Evergreen Marine told AFP. “The company has urged the shipowner to report the cause of the incident and has been in discussions with relevant parties including the canal management authority to assist the ship as soon as possible.”
The accident quickly led to a backup in the busy canal, and nearly some other accidents, according to Cora.
“Right after they ran aground the ship behind us lost power and almost hit us,” she wrote on Instagram.
It was quickly clear that getting the massive Ever Given back on track would be a mammoth operation. Photos and satellite maps show its bow along the canal’s eastern boundary, while its stern nearly touched the western edge.
“From the looks of it that ship is super stuck,” Cora wrote on Instagram. “They had a bunch of tugs trying to pull and push it earlier but it was going nowhere.”
She added, “There is a little excavator trying to dig out the bow.”
Tug boats scrambled to try to “re-float the vessel,” according to Leth Agencies, which offers services to ships transiting the canal.
It’s not clear how long the recovery operations will take. Suez Canal authorities have yet to publicly comment on the situation, the Associated Press reported.
Global shipping firms rely on the Suez Canal to move millions of tons of cargo and oil every day on the shortest route between Asia and Europe. Satellite maps showed dozens of boats idling in the Red Sea and Mediterranean waiting for the canal to reopen.
But some experts said that unless the accident takes weeks to resolve, the global supply chain shouldn’t be noticeably impacted.
“Moving about 50 ships a day, the impacts of a stranded ship are negligible unless it takes weeks to float it,” Flavio Macau, a supply chain management expert at Edith Cowan University in Australia, told the Guardian. “But that is very unlikely and it should be over in a couple of days, tops.”