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September 30, 2023

The Suez Canal briefly blocked but reopened within hours

By Aakanksha Nigam

On Wednesday, at around 7.00 pm local time, the 64,000-ton fuel tanker AFFINITY V drifted southbound, blocking the southern segment of the canal. The 250-metre-long tanker was bound for Saudi Arabia and ran aground close to the same spot in the canal where the Ever Given shipping container stalled traffic in March 2021, dominating global headlines for a week.

But this time, tugboats were able to refloat the ship in the space of a few hours, the canal authority said, and navigation was returned to normal in the channel. At midnight, the head of the Suez Canal Authority, Osama Rabie, announced that rescue units and five of the authority’s tugs had successfully refloated the tanker some five hours later, with traffic returning to normal. 

Having a registered tonnage of around 110 000, the Singaporean-flagged Affinity V measures 252 metres long and 45 metres wide, making it smaller than the 400-metre-long Ever Given. Additionally, it was estimated that it carried around 40% of its total capacity, making it easier to refloat.

The vessel’s failure was due to a technical malfunction at the ship’s rudder, which caused the ship to lose the ability to steer and strand, causing it to hit the bank of the canal.  The vessel sailed from Portugal and was en route to Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea port of Yanbu.

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