Vessel runs aground, briefly blocking Suez Canal

CAIRO (AP) — An oil tanker ran aground Wednesday in Egypt’s Suez Canal, briefly blocking the global waterway before it was freed, the canal’s authority said.

The Singaporean-flagged Affinity V vessel had become wedged in a single-lane stretch of the canal, the Suez Canal Authority’s head Osama Rabie said in a statement issued by the body.

He said that five of the authority’s tug boats managed to get the vessel floating again in a coordinated operation. He said a technical failure in the boat’s steering mechanism caused it to hit the bank of the canal, and that navigation for other ships passing through the canal had returned to normal.

A spokesman for Suez Canal Authority told the government-affiliated Extra News satellite television channel that the ship ran aground around 7:15pm local time, and was floating again some five hours later. George Safwat said the vessel sailed from Portugal and its destination was the Saudi Arabian Red Sea port of Yanbu.

He said the vessel was part of a convoy heading south to the Red Sea. Two convoys transit through the Suez Canal everyday; One north-bound to the Mediterranean and the other south-bound to the Red Sea.

The ship was built in 2016 with a length of 252 metres and a width of 45 metres.

In March of 2021, the Japanese-owned Ever Given, a colossal container ship, was stuck for nearly a week in the canal.

Buffeted by a sandstorm, the Ever Given crashed into a bank of a single-lane stretch of the canal about 6km north of the southern entrance, near the city of Suez. The blockage created a massive traffic jam that held up $9 billion a day in global trade and strained supply chains already burdened by the coronavirus pandemic.

A few months later, in September of 2021, another large shipping vessel ran aground before authorities managed to free it within hours.