A team of experts on Wednesday started an investigation into what caused a huge container ship to block the Suez Canal for almost a week, an Egyptian state-run newspaper reported.
The Panama-flagged ship, Ever Given, was refloated on Monday, six days after it ran aground during a sandstorm and blocked the canal, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.
Experts have started an official investigation into the causes of the incident, the online edition of Akhbar al-Youm reported.
A canal official has said that the investigation team includes a legal expert, engineer and a specialist in loss and compensation.
The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) requested via an email two days ago that the vessel’s crew hand over its documents and data to determine the causes of the incident, said Sayed Sheyshe, an adviser to the Egyptian authority.
However, they did not reply. “Some ships choose not to respond or hand over anything until a team they summon from abroad attends such investigations,” Sheyshe told the privately owned Egyptian broadcaster ON E on Tuesday night.
He added that if the Ever Given crew continued to refuse to cooperate, investigations would turn into a civil lawsuit, and an order to seize the ship and its cargo would be issued.
“This matter will take around two years until the dispute is resolved,” he said.
Investigators will examine the ship captain’s responses and the ship’s equipment before and during the mishap, he added.
The official predicted that investigations would be concluded in three or four days.
The 400-metre-long vessel is now anchored at the Great Lakes area, a wider section of the canal, for technical inspection and investigations.
The colossal tanker veered off its course last week when the crew lost visibility while sailing through the canal on a Rotterdam-bound voyage, resulting in a huge traffic jam.
The blockage of the canal by the ship, which is almost as long as New York’s Empire State Building, disrupted supply chains and sent ripples through global markets as it got struck across the waterway.
Since the canal was reopened on Monday, a total of 163 vessels have travelled across it, Leth Agencies, a transit services provider, said Wednesday.
Other 292 ships are still awaiting transit, it added.
Eighty-one vessels sailed through the canal in both directions Wednesday, SCA head Osama Rabie said.
“Navigation in the canal continues round the clock to ensure the transit of all ships still at the waiting areas or the canal’s northern and southern entrances at the nearest possible time,” he added in a statement.
The Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, provides the shortest shipping route between Asia and Europe.
The blockage cost the canal operator 13 million to 14 million dollars in losses per day, according to SCA officials.
At least 18,840 ships passed through the canal last year.
The Suez Canal provides one of Egypt’s main sources of income, alongside tourism and remittances from expatriates.
Revenue from the waterway reached 5.6 billion dollars last year.