The huge container ship MV Ever Given has reportedly been refloated from the banks of the Suez canal, raising hopes that the vital waterway will soon reopen and that global shipping backlogs will be cleared.
After almost a week of failed attempts to free the vessel, multiple reports on Monday morning said that it had been dislodged from its position lodged on the bank of the canal.
The 400-metre (1,300ft) long Ever Given was successfully re-floated at 4.30 am local time (0230 GMT) and was being secured, Inchcape, a global provider of marine services said on Twitter.
Citing shipping sources with knowledge of the situation, Reuters reported that the Ever Given had been straightened, had restarted its engines and was undergoing checks before being moved.
Video posted on social media appeared to show the ship’s stern had swung around, opening space in the canal. Other footage, which could not be verified, included cheering and ships’ horns sounding in celebration.
Earlier, the Wall Street Journal quoted Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority that operates the waterway, saying the ship had been partially freed and it was “good news”. He said that tugboats would keep working for another hour to ensure the vessel could begin moving again up the canal.
“We are not finished yet, but it has moved,” he said.
Ship tracking websites showed that the Panama-registered ship had moved from its positionlodged between the banks, with the bow pointing northwards away from the east bank.
Leth Agencies, which provides services to shipping using the canal, said early on Monday that the breakthrough came after intensive efforts to push and pull the ship with 10 tugboats.
The salvage effort also included dredging thousands of tonnes of sand from the banks and bed of the canal. High spring tides also helped to refloat the vessel.
Crude oil prices fell after news the ship had been refloated, with Brent crude down by $1.41 per barrel to $63.05.
.The news came after Egyptian authorities said on Sunday that high tides and the arrival of extra tug boats could finally free the stricken ship as the crisis entered its seventh day.
Salvage attempts were paused on Sunday to wait for extra tugs to arrive and while more excavation and dredging was carried out under the ship.
According to Reuters, two sources at the SCA earlier said that a mass of rock had been found at the bow of the ship. That appeared to be confirmed by the focus late on Sunday on digging to remove the lining of the canal around the bow, which ploughed into the bank when the ship veered out of control.
Diggers had been working to remove parts of the canal’s bank and expand dredging close to the ship’s bow to a depth of 18 metres (59ft), the SCA said in a statement.
Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chief Osama Rabie told an Egyptian news channel the ship had moved from side to side for the first time late on Saturday.
“It is a good sign,” he said, adding that 14 tugboats were deployed around the vessel and salvage crews were working round the clock.null
Richard Meade, an editor at shipping data and news company Lloyd’s List, said sources close to the salvage operation had voiced optimism “that the vessel could be moved within the next 24-48 hours”.
The 400m-long (1,300ft) Ever Given became jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal in high winds early on 23 March, halting traffic on the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.
At least 369 vessels are waiting to transit the canal, Rabie said, including dozens of container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vessels.
Many other ships have already been re-routed around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope in order to circumvent the Suez blockage, although the 5,500-mile (9,000km) diversion takes 7 to 10 days longer and adds a huge fuel bill to the trip between Asia and Europe.
Reuters, Associated Press and Agence-France Presse contributed to this report.