The Ever Given ship – which is almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall – stranded diagonally across the single-lane stretch of the southern channel on Tuesday morning after losing the ability to drive amid strong winds and a storm of sand, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said in a statement.
Now it is blocking traffic in both directions through one of the busiest shipping channels in the world.
Maritime services company GAC issued a note to customers overnight saying that efforts to free the ship using tugs continued, but that wind conditions and the size of the ship “were hampering the operation”.
The ship tracking software shows five tugs around Ever Given and three more heading towards it. The ship’s GPS signal shows only minor changes in its position in the last 24 hours.
Several dozen ships, including other large container ships, oil and gas tankers and grain carriers, retreated at both ends of the canal to create one of the worst traffic jams seen in years.
Approximately 30% of the worldwide volume of shipping containers passes through the 193 km (120 miles) Suez Canal daily and about 12% of the total global trade in all goods.
Shipping experts say that if the blockade is not lifted within the next 24 to 48 hours, some shipping companies may be forced to redirect ships around southern Africa, which would add about a week to the trip.
But the president of the Suez Canal Authority told the media that despite the blockade, part of the cargo was able to move south and efforts to evict Ever Given will continue.