Ismailia, Egypt, Mar 29 (efe-epa).- Traffic resumed in both directions on the Suez Canal at 6.00 pm (1600 GMT) Monday, just hours after a container ship that ran aground and blocked the vital international waterway for six days was freed.
With the Panama-flagged Ever Given out of the way, authorities are dealing with the “other challenge” of dealing with the backlog of 422 ships, the head of the Suez Canal Authority, Adm. Osama Rabie, told a press conference here.
The SCA expects that 113 vessels will have completed their passage through the canal by 6.00 am Tuesday, he said, adding that normal navigation could be restored within the next three to four days.
Rabie said the SCA would not make a decision on whether it should take responsibility for any portion of the economic losses incurred by shippers until after a thorough investigation.
“We are not to blame for this,” he said, reiterating that the canal is capable of handling vessels the size of the Ever Given and insisting that the two Egyptian tugboat captains who guided the ship were “experienced.”
“I believe that there are human mistakes or errors and other technical ones. This will be clarified after the investigations,” the SCA chief said.
The Ever Given, operated by Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine Corp., is undergoing an inspection at Great Bitter Lake, which lies mid-way between the Mediterranean and Red Sea ends of the canal.
Earlier Monday, the SCA aired live footage of the Ever Given moving away from the shore after it was refloated.
Navigation through the Suez Canal was suspended after the 400-meter-long, 220,000-ton vessel ran aground when the crew lost visibility amid strong winds and a sandstorm last Tuesday.
Egyptian President Abdelfattah al-Sisi praised his compatriots for successfully ending the crisis.
“And by restoring matters to their normal course, with Egyptian hands, the whole world can be assured of the path of its goods and needs that pass through this navigational artery,” added Al-Sisi in a Facebook post.
The 193-km (120-mi) waterway provides the shortest shipping route between Asia and Europe.
Last year, a total of 18,829 ships passed through the Suez with a total net tonnage of 1.17 billion tons, bringing in revenue of $5.61 billion.
The Suez Canal, opened in 1869, is a major source of income in Egypt, alongside tourism. EFE sr-ijm/smq/ks/dr