A team of experts boarded a massive cargo ship that spent nearly a week stuck in the Suez Canal on Tuesday, as questions grew over an incident that rocked the global shipping industry and blocked one of the world’s most important sea passages.
The Ever Given was safely anchored in the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water between the north and south sides of the canal, after maritime rescue teams managed to free it on Monday afternoon. The ship incident had brought maritime trade to a standstill every day at a cost of billions of dollars.
Experts were looking for signs of damage and trying to determine the cause of the incident, a leading canal pilot told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the press.
Engineers were also checking the ship’s engines to try to determine when it could continue its journey to the Netherlands, the pilot added without elaborating. The Japanese-owned, Panamanian-flagged freighter is carrying goods between Asia and Europe.
Ships loaded with containers were seen sailing north from the city in Suez on Monday. Canal service provider Leth Agencies said some three dozen waiting vessels had already departed for the Red Sea since the canal reopened at 18:00 on Monday.
By Tuesday morning there were more than 300 vessels on both sides of the Suez Canal and in the Great Bitter Lake waiting to receive the green light to sail to their destinations, Leth Agencies said.
Lt. Gen. Osama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority, told reporters Monday that shipping traffic could return to its usual pace within four days.
The firm that owned the ship, Shoei Kisen, said Tuesday it would participate in the investigation along with other parties, though it did not identify them. It also declined to discuss possible causes of the accident, such as alleged speeding and other errors, saying it could not comment on an ongoing investigation.
The company added that any damage to the ship was believed to be below. It was initially unclear whether the Ever Given would be repaired on site in Egypt or whether it would head to its initial destination, Rotterdam. That decision would be made by the company operating the ship and not the owner, the company added.
A flotilla of tugboats took advantage of the tides on Monday to pull the Ever Given’s bow bulb off the sandy shore of the canal, where it had been embedded since March 23. The tugs sounded their sirens in celebration as they guided the Ever Given through the channel after days of a blockade that had captivated the world, and provoked scrutiny and jeers on social media.
Analysts expected clearing the traffic buildup on both sides of the canal to take at least another 10 days.