April 6, 2021 11:00 AM, EDT

Suez Canal Traffic Briefly Stopped as Oil Tanker Loses Power

Suez CanalThe entrance to the canal. (Islam Safwat/Bloomberg News)

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Traffic through Egypt’s Suez Canal was briefly halted April 6, just two weeks after a giant containership ran aground and blocked the waterway that’s vital for global trade.

The oil tanker Rumford needed to be towed by tugboats after experiencing engine problems, but was soon operational and the northbound convoy it was in was moving normally again, according to the Suez Canal Authority and Inchcape Shipping Services.

The SCA said navigation in the waterway was “unaffected” and 84 ships had crossed April 6 as of roughly 2 p.m. local time.

Six ships held up behind the stricken tanker were all on the move again by the same time, according to vessel tracking data monitored by Bloomberg.

On March 23, a 400-meter containership, the Ever Given, became stuck in the southern part of the canal. It took almost a week to free it. It’s currently in the Great Bitter Lake, roughly halfway along the waterway.

That incident caused a backlog of hundreds of ships and Egypt said it may seek around $1 billion in compensation due to lost transit fees and damage to the canal from the salvage efforts.

The April 6 disruption serves as another reminder that the waterway is vulnerable to ships getting stuck or when they have engine problems. About 12% of world trade passes through the Suez Canal, which shaves thousands of miles off voyages between Asia and Europe.

The canal authority said in a statement it’s aiming to upgrade its rescue capabilities by adding some large tugboats. It’s also planning to build new so-called marine garages and deepen some existing ones.

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