Suez Canal: Giant ship Ever Given freed after blocking vital shipping route for nearly a week

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Martha Fairlie

Tugboat crews sounded their foghorns in celebration after the Ever Given, the colossal boat stuck in the Suez Canal for a week, was set free.

The skyscraper-size, 22-000-tonne vessel ran aground on Tuesday in the narrow yet vital shipping route through Egypt, blocking global trade.

Teams have been working for days on end to free the colossus and, helped by the peak of high tide, have finally managed to do so on Monday.

A flotilla of tugboats wrenched the boat’s bulbous bow from the canal’s sandy bank, where it had been firmly lodged for nearly a week.

  • Watch the Ever Given make its journey after being freed:

After hauling the vessel over the canal bank, the salvage team was pulling the vessel toward the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south end of the canal, where the ship will undergo technical inspection, canal authorities said.

Satellite data from confirmed that the ship was moving away from the shoreline toward the centre of the canal.

Dutch company SMIT Salvage, which played a key role in the operation, said its "team of experts, working in close collaboration with the Suez Canal Authority, successfully refloated" the ship at 3:05pm local time.

World oil prices eased on the news of the reopening of the waterway that connects the Mediterranean and Red Sea and through which more than 10% of world trade passes.

The obstruction has created a massive traffic jam, holding up $9 billion (£6.5 billion) each day in global trade and straining supply chains already burdened by the Covid pandemic.

Ever Given was wedged across the Suez Canal for nearly a week Credit: Mohamed Elshahed/AP

The head of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), Admiral Osama Rabie, "announced the resumption of shipping traffic in the Suez Canal," the authority said in a statement.

But the SCA warned that it will take more than three days to clear the traffic jams of ships that were stuck at the northern and southern ends of the canal.

By the end of the drama, the tailback had reached 425 vessels.

Salvage crews worked around the clock to free the Japanese-owned megaship, which became stuck after high winds and poor visibility during a sandstorm.

Approximately 30,000 cubic metres of sand was dredged in the operation at a depth of 18 metres (59ft), SCA spokesman George Safwat said on Sunday.

A digger trying to dig out the keel of the Ever Given Credit: Suez Canal Authority/AP

Data firm Refinitiv estimated it could take more than 10 days to clear the backlog of ships.

Meanwhile, dozens of vessels have opted for the alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip — a 5,000-kilometre (3,100-mile) detour that adds some two weeks to journeys and costs ships hundreds of thousands of pounds in fuel and other costs.

The freeing of the vessel came after dredgers vacuumed up sand and mud from the vessel’s bow and 10 tugboats pushed and pulled the vessel for five days, managing to partially refloat it at dawn.