Salvage teams succeeded on Monday in freeing a massive container ship that had been stuck in the Suez canal for the past seven days, blocking billions of dollars' worth of cargo from crossing one of the world's busiest marine waterways.
"We pulled it off!" said Peter Berdowski, the chief executive of the Dutch salvaging firm Boskalis, which was hired to assist in the process. "I am excited to announce that our team of experts, working in close collaboration with the Suez Canal Authority, successfully refloated the Ever Given on 29 March at 15.05 local time, thereby making free passage through the Suez canal possible again."
He said 30,000 cubic metres of sand had been dredged to help free the vessel, which had been pulled free using 13 tugboats.
A full moon on Sunday gave the salvager an especially promising 24-hour window to work in, with a few extra inches of tidal flow providing a vital assist.
Then, just before dawn, the ship slowly regained buoyancy.
Even with the vessel released, it could be several days before other ships can sail through the canal, said a Greek sea captain whose oil tanker is stuck behind the Ever Given. "According to the canal's rules they have to remove it."
The 1,400-foot-long cargo ship became jammed diagonally across a southern section of the Suez Canal early on 23 March, leaving a total of 367 ships, including dozens of container ships and bulk carriers, unable to use the key trading route as of Monday morning.
The obstruction has created a massive traffic jam in the vital passage, costing global trade between $6bn and $10bn a day according to one estimate.
The closing threatened to disrupt oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East. Already, Syria had begun rationing the distribution of fuel in the war-torn country because of concerns about delays of shipments arriving, The Associated Press reported.
Shipping rates for oil product tankers nearly doubled after the ship became stranded, Reuters reported, and the blockage had disrupted global supply chains, already strained by Covid-19 restrictions.
Many other ships have already been rerouted around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope in order to circumvent the Suez blockage, although the 5,500-mile (9,000km) diversion takes seven to 10 days longer and adds a huge fuel bill to the trip between Asia and Europe.
The Ever Given had moved away from its lodged position and was towed toward the Great Bitter Lake, the widest part of the canal, where it will undergo inspection for any technical issues.