Experts working to free a cargo ship – which has been jammed in the Suez Canal for five days – have managed to budge its stern and get its rudder and propeller to work again.
Some 9,000 tonnes of ballast water were removed from the ship to help make it lighter – but the Japanese-owned Ever Given remains stuck – and blocking the crucial arterial route for world trade.
Heavier tugs are now being deployed to the waterway to try again to free the vessel at high tide.
According to authorities, at least 321 other ships are now backed up, waiting to make their journey through the canal.
Lloyds List shipping experts say around £6.5bn in trade is being held up each day.
But it is not only the delivery of goods that are being hampered by the issues, Syria has now been forced to ration the distribution of fuel in the war-torn country amid concerns of delays to shipments in the Canal.
Even before the skyscraper-sized Ever Given, carrying cargo between Asia and Europe, ran aground on Tuesday, Syria had been suffering from fuel shortages mostly caused by Western sanctions.
The Oil Ministry said that while waiting for the return of shipping traffic to normal through the canal, and in order to ensure the continued provision of basic services to Syrians at bakeries, hospitals, water stations and telecommunications centres, it had been forced to limit the distribution of available oil.
Earlier this year, the Syrian government raised the price of fuel, including subsidised prices, by more than 50%, in the third increase this year.
It also raised the price of cooking gas. Nearly 80% of Syrians live in poverty, and 60% are food insecure – the worst food security situation ever seen in Syria, according to the United Nations.
At a press conference on Saturday updating on rescue progress, Suez Canal Authority chairman Osama Rabie said he could “honestly not say” when the Ever Given might be re-floated.
He added: “Maybe today, God willing, maybe tomorrow, it depends on the situation.
“It depends on how the ship responds. When dealing with a ship of this size, its behaviour is unknown.”
Turning to how it happened, Mr Rabie said: “An accident this big has several mistakes, several causes, part of it is a technical mistake, which is under investigation.
“There could also be a human error, which is also under investigation.
“There could be a lot of mistakes, but we can’t say what they are now.
“The only mistake we can be sure of now is the wind and the sandstorm. This is not the main one, like I said, but the rest will become clearer in the investigation.”
On Friday, one UK firm warned that the stranded Ever Given could also mean higher prices for British shoppers.
Strong tides and winds are complicating the efforts to free Ever Given and Egypt’s president has said he will next seek help from foreign experts.
Some 14 tug boats have been trying to move the quarter-mile-long vessel and dredging has begun to try to shift sand to help free it.
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