One of the largest ships in the world was partially refloated and turned in the Suez Canal on Monday as hopes heightened that hundreds of waiting ships would soon be sailing through the crucial global waterway.
The salvage crew leader hired to free the ship, however, warned that much work remained before the ship is freed and the canal reopened.
“Don’t cheer too soon,” Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, told Dutch NPO Radio 1. “The good news is that the stern is free but we saw that as the simplest part of the job.”
The stern of the Ever Given, which had been grounded about four yards from the bank, has been swung more than 100 yards away, the Egyptian-owned Suez Canal Authority said in a statement.
“This was the result of successful push and tow maneuvers, which led to the restoration of 80% of the vessel’s direction,” the statement said.
Admiral Osama Rabie, who manages the authority, said work continued and that the ship should be moved “very soon.” He pledged the more than 360 ships awaiting passage would start to flow through the canal “immediately upon the complete restoration of the vessel’s direction.”
How the ship get stuck in the Suez Canal: The world’s heaviest traffic jam
Videos showed tugboats in the canal blaring their horns in celebration. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi spoke optimistically of the efforts on social media.
“Today, the Egyptians have succeeded in ending the crisis of the delinquent ship in the Suez Canal despite the tremendous technical complexity that surrounded this process from every side,” he tweeted.
It will take more than three days to clear the traffic jam once the Ever Given is moved, the authority said. The global shipping company Maersk estimated it could take twice that long.
“Even when the canal gets reopened, the ripple effects on global capacity and equipment are significant,” the company said in an advisory statement for customers.
Maersk said it has three vessels stuck in the canal and another 29 waiting to enter. The company has rerouted 15 vessels to sail around Africa.
Removing some or all of the load in an effort to lighten the ship would take weeks and add to the growing backlog of ships awaiting passage.
Suez Canal blockage:Vessel ‘partially refloated’ as workers resume efforts
The Panamanian-flagged cargo ship Ever Given weighs 220,000 tons, spans nearly a quarter-mile long and carries 20,000 containers. The ship, almost as long as the Empire State building is tall, spun around and ran aground in high winds a week ago.
The 120-mile-long shipping link between the Mediterranean and Red seas carries about 13% of world trade, said German insurer Allianz, which estimates the cost in global trade at up to $10 billion per day.
Contributing: The Associated Press