Divers have inspected the underside of a colossal container ship that blocked the Suez Canal, spotting some damage to the bow but not enough to take it out of service, officials said.
The dives were part of a continuing investigation into what caused the Ever Given to crash into the bank of the canal where it remained wedged for six days, blocking a crucial artery of global shipping, before it was dislodged on Monday.
The vessel is now anchored in the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south ends of the canal.
The blockage had halted billions of pounds a day in maritime commerce.
Two senior canal officials said the vessel’s bulbous bow had suffered slight to medium damage.
One of the officials, a canal pilot, said experts were studying the extent of the damage, but it is unlikely it would impede navigation.
He said the ship’s next movements would depend on “several legal and procedural” measures that the canal authority would discuss with Ever Given’s operator.
When blame is assigned, it is likely to lead to years of litigation to recoup the costs of repairing the ship, fixing the canal and reimbursing those who saw their cargo shipments disrupted.
The vessel is owned by a Japanese firm, operated by a Taiwanese shipper, flagged in Panama and is stuck in Egypt, so matters could become complicated.
Since the canal reopened for traffic on Monday afternoon, convoys of ships have been moving through the waterway which links the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
A maritime traffic jam had grown on both ends of the canal during the six days of blockage. From the reopening to noon on Wednesday, more than 160 vessels had passed through the canal.
Lieutenant General Ossama Rabei, head of the canal authority, said officials would work around the clock to clear the backlog at either end.
The unprecedented shutdown added to strain on the shipping industry already under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.