CAIRO -- A large container ship ran aground in Egypt's Suez Canal early on Tuesday, blocking navigation in the vital waterway for more than 24 hours, officials have said.
Ever Given, a 224,000-ton ship registered in Panama that is 400 meters long and 59 meters wide, was on its way from China to the Dutch port city of Rotterdam when it was stuck near the southern end of the 193-km-long Suez Canal.
"The accident is mainly due to the lack of visibility resulting from bad weather conditions as the country passes through a dust storm, with wind speed reaching 40 knots," Suez Canal Authority Chairman Osama Rabie said in a statement.
"This has led to the loss of the ability to steer the ship and then its stranding," Rabie said.
Rabie said eight tugboats, including a 160-ton one, were trying to pull the ship and re-float it. He also said that traffic would be diverted to an older channel to ease the jam. GAC, a global shipping and logistics company that provides services in the Suez Canal, said the vessel "has been partially refloated and is now alongside the Canal bank."
"Convoys and traffic are expected to resume as soon as the vessel is towed to another position," GAC said via its Hot Port News portal.
An eyewitness told ABC News that traffic came to a complete halt in the Suez Canal, which provides the shortest link from Asia to Europe by connecting the Mediterranean to the Red Sea.
"We have been stranded since 5 am (3 am GMT) on Tuesday," Ahmed Mahmoud, a Syrian worker who is aboard an Egyptian ship bound for Morocco, said.
Ever Given is operated by Evergreen Marine Corporation, a Taiwanese transportation and shipping company.
"Ever Given had been overcome by strong winds as it entered the Suez Canal from the Red Sea but none of its containers had sunk," the company said in a statement to the Associated Press.
The Suez Canal, one of Egypt's main sources of hard currency, generated $5.6 billion in revenues last year, a 3.4 percent drop compared to 2019.
Last year, 18,829 vessels passed through the canal in both directions, with an overall net tonnage of 1.17 billion.
The strategic waterway was opened in 1869, with Egypt inaugurating a major 35-km extension parallel to it in 2015.