Experts are looking into how a colossal cargo ship became wedged across Egypt’s Suez Canal, where the vessel blocked traffic and disrupted billions of dollars in international trade for nearly a week.
While the Ever Given, which is about as long as the Empire State Building is tall, was freed Monday and traffic has since resumed in the channel that links the Mediterranean and Red seas, it’s still unclear what went wrong.
Experts boarded the massive vessel on Tuesday as it idled in Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake, just north of the site where it had blocked the canal and halted billions of dollars a day in maritime commerce.
A senior canal pilot, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to journalists, told The Associated Press that experts were looking for signs of damage and trying to determine why the vessel ran aground.
The ship’s owner, Japanese firm Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., said Tuesday that it would be part of the investigation along with other parties, though it did not identify them by name. It also refused to discuss what factors could have caused the grounding, including the ship’s speed and the high winds, saying it could not comment on an ongoing investigation.
The company said that any damage to the ship was believed to be mostly on its keel. It said it was not immediately known whether the vessel will be repaired on-site in Egypt or elsewhere, or whether it will eventually head to its initial destination of Rotterdam. That is a decision to be made by its operator, rather than the ship owner, the company said.
The vessel is operated by a Taiwanese shipper.
Even as traffic began to flow through the canal once more, a canal service provider said more than 300 vessels carrying everything from crude oil to cattle were still waiting for their turn in a process that will take days.
Analysts expect it could take at least another 10 days to clear the backlog — though Egypt’s president said Tuesday it would take just three. The losses to shippers, as well as any physical damage to the vessel itself, likely will see lawsuits.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.