Suez canal: stranded ship Ever Given has been refloated according to reports - here's how it was "freed"

The Ever Given has been “successfully refloated” according to a maritime services company

The container ship Ever Given has been "freed" according to reports (Getty Images)

Ever Given, the stricken ship blocking the Suez Canal, has been refloated according to reports on social media.

Maritime services company Inchcape reported that the ship had been freed in the early hours of Monday morning.

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Canal services firm Leth Agencies had earlier reported that the ship had been partially freed.

The breakthrough came after intensive efforts with ten tugboats pushing and pulling the ship while vacuuming up sand underneath the ship with several dredgers during high tide.

The ship has blocked the canal, one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, since last Tuesday. Roughly 12% of global trade passes through the 120-mile canal.

Inchcape reported the news, tweeting: “The MV Ever Given was successfully re-floated at 04:30 lt 29/03/2021. She is being secured at the moment. More information about next steps will follow once they are known.”

How was the Ever Given refloated?

The stricken ship blocking the Suez Canal was "partially refloated" in the early hours of Monday morning.

Leth Agencies said that tugboats had pushed and pulled the stranded ship with while vacuuming up sand underneath the ship with several dredgers at high tide.

Satellite data from MarineTraffic.com showed the ship in a different position, surrounded by a squadron of tugboats with its bow stuck in the canal's eastern bank.

It tweeted at 6.20am: “We can confirm, we have movement, the #EverGiven has been partially freed, still some work to do though. Stay tuned”.

Efforts to free the Ever Given were set to intensify through Monday, as more than 320 ships waited to use the vital waterway and major shipping firms increasingly diverted their boats around the southern tip of Africa out of fear of prolonged delays.

The Dutch-flagged Alp Guard, a specialist tugboat, arrived at the location on Sunday, according to the stuck ship's technical management company, Bernard Schulte Shipmanagement. The Italian-flagged tug Carlo Magno was also close, having reached the Red Sea near the city of Suez early on Sunday, satellite data from MarineTraffic.com showed.

The tugboats, along with at least 10 others already there, were to be deployed to nudge the quarter-mile-long Ever Given as dredgers continue vacuuming sand and Excavators dug at the eastern wall of the canal on Sunday, hoping to free the ship's bulbous bow. More dredging equipment was set to arrive by Tuesday.

Officials have been desperately trying to avoid unloading the vessel, which likely would add even more days to the canal's closure. Taking containers off the ship would require a crane and other equipment that have yet to arrive.

Did human error cause the blockage? Investigations underway

On Saturday, the head of the Suez Canal Authority told journalists that strong winds were "not the only cause" for the Ever Given running aground, appearing to push back against conflicting assessments offered by others. Osama Rabei said an investigation was ongoing but did not rule out human or technical error.

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement maintains that their "initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding". However, at least one initial report suggested a "blackout" struck the hulking vessel carrying some 20,000 containers at the time of the incident.

Mr Rabei said he remained hopeful that dredging could free the ship without having to resort to removing its cargo, but added that "we are in a difficult situation, it's a bad incident".

Asked about when they expected to free the vessel and reopen the canal, he said: "I can't say because I do not know."

Speaking on Sunday to the pro-government Egyptian television channel Extra News, Mr Rabei said Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi had ordered the canal authority to prepare for all options, including taking containers from the vessel. He said officials had been in talks with the US about that possibility, without elaborating.

Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd, the company that owns the vessel, said it was considering removing containers if other refloating efforts failed.