Suez Canal Authorities say backlog of ships is now cleared

The queue of hundreds of ships that built up around the Suez Canal after the grounding of the Ever Given vessel has been cleared, according to Egyptian authorities.

The final 85 ships passed through the waterway on Saturday, the Suez Canal Authority said on its Facebook page, adding that the operation demonstrated its ability to manage emergencies.

Overall, 422 vessels passed through since the tanker was freed on March 29, after blocking the canal for almost a week.

The 400-meter-long Ever Given container vessel, owned by Japan’s Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., ran aground on March 23 in the southern part of the canal. The waterway handles about 12% of world commerce. Its blockage snarled supply chains already under pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic and provided a stark reminder of the fragility of global trade infrastructure.

The canal normally handles around 50 ships a day, but had to increase that figure to 80-90 to clear the backlog.

Egypt plans to seek around $1 billion in compensation for lost transit fees and damages, the Canal Authority said on Wednesday. It didn’t specify who should provide the compensation.

The Ever Given and its cargo are currently in the Great Bitter Lake, roughly halfway along the canal.

Most of the vessels waiting were bulk carriers — which transport unpackaged cargo such as grains, coal and iron ore — and container ships, according to Leth Agencies, which provides Suez Canal crossing services. There were around 75 crude-oil and chemical tankers, it said.