HOUSTON (ICIS)--Vessels began entering the Suez Canal late on Monday after a containership that had blocked passage since 23 March was dislodged, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said.
The 400 metre-long vessel Ever Given was freed at 15:00 local time (14:00 BST) from the canal where it had been stuck for almost a week.
According to VesselFinder, the Ever Given has arrived in Great Bitter Lake, which is connected to the Mediterranean Sea and Red Sea via the Suez Canal, to be inspected. The vessel tracking site also showed ships transiting the canal.
Authorities said there are more than 400 ships waiting to pass through the canal, which is a vital shipping lane between the Middle East, Asia and Europe, and that it could take three or four days to clear the backlog.
The blockage added pressure to supply chains that were already strained because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to the vessel being cleared, some ships had been re-directed to travel around the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, which adds as many as 10 days to the voyage.
The Suez Canal is a crucial route for crude oil, chemicals and refined products travelling from the Middle East and Asia-Pacific to Europe and North America, with any disruption presenting a significant choke point to trade, at a time when shipping routes are already substantially disrupted.
Additional reporting by Morgan Condon
Click here to view the Suez Canal closure topic page.
Thumbnail image released by Suez Canal Authority shows the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship, being pulled by a Suez Canal tugboat. Source: Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock