Multiple reports say part of the stricken vessel has been dislodged from the banks, raising hopes of freeing international shipping logjam
Salvage teams appear to have made a breakthrough in refloating the Ever Given in the Suez Canal. Photograph: Mahmoud Khaled/Getty Images
The Guardian- Guardian stafff and agencies
The Ever Given has reportedly been partially freed from the banks of the Suez canal, raising hopes that the vital waterway could reopen and ease global shipping backlogs.
Early on Monday morning, reports emerged that the bow of the massive container ship had been dislodged from the bank of the canal.
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.
Bloomberg cited the maritime services provider Inchcape saying salvage teams had freed the Ever Given almost seven days after it first ran aground.
Ship tracking websites showed that the Panama-registered ship had moved from its position lodged 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.
Video appeared to show the ship floating in the canal. At the scene, tugboats could be heard sounding their horns in celebration.
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.
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.