The container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week has finally been released after a gigantic salvage operation.
Tugboats sounded their horns in celebration as the 400-meter-long Ever Given was dislodged on Monday.
Traffic will resume in both directions of the canal at 19:00 local time (17:00 GMT), according to local authorities.
Hundreds of ships are waiting to pass.
Suez, which connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea via Egypt, is one of the world’s busiest trade routes.
Peter Berdowski, managing director of Dutch salvage company Boskalis, said the Ever Given had been refloated at 15:05 (13:05 GMT) Monday, “thus making free passage through the Suez Canal possible again.”
The vessel was being towed for safety checks to the Great Bitter Lake, which lies between two sections of the canal north of where the ship became stuck.
Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi thanked the Egyptians for their efforts to “end the crisis” in the canal.
The disruption to world trade will not end with the refloating of the Ever Given. According to Lloyd’s List, there are currently more than 370 ships waiting to pass through the canal, including container ships, tankers and bulk carriers. Clearing that backlog is expected to take several days.
Some vessels have already left the region, preferring to take a longer alternative route around the southern tip of Africa. They will be joined by other vessels traveling from East Asia to Europe, whose operators have decided not to risk waiting for the canal to reopen.
Inevitably, cargoes will arrive at their destination much later than expected. Traffic jams are likely to occur when they reach port, while future shipping schedules have been thrown into disarray.
The cost of shipping cargo to Europe is expected to rise as a result. Industry experts warn that the impact on delicately balanced supply chains could be felt for months.
How was the ship released?
The 200,000-tonne Ever Given ran aground last Tuesday morning amid high winds and a sandstorm that affected visibility.
‘Our customers are worried about the Suez blockade’
To refloat it, Boskalis deployed a specialized salvage team, SMIT Salvage Papendrecht. They first freed the stern and then the bow, despite strong winds.
Some 30,000 cubic meters of sand were dredged, with a total of 11 harbor tugs and two powerful sea tugs.
By Sunday, canal officials had begun preparing to remove some of the approximately 18,000 containers on board to lighten the cargo.
The containers carry a wide variety of items and the insured value of the cargo is believed to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
What happens next?
Vessel tracking website VesselFinder reports that no cargo ships have yet entered the canal from the port of Suez, at the tip of the Red Sea.
The Suez Canal Authority has warned that it may take up to three days to clear the backlog of ships at both ends of the canal.
Shipping group Maersk said the impact on global shipping could take weeks or months to resolve.
In the meantime, the Ever Given will undergo a full inspection in Great Bitter Lake, the vessel’s technical managers, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, said.
The company said there had been no reports of pollution or cargo damage, and initial investigations had ruled out any mechanical or engine failure as the cause of last week’s grounding.
The 25-strong Indian crew remaining on board the vessel are safe and in good health, BSM said, adding, “Their hard work and tireless professionalism are greatly appreciated.”