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Suez Canal Blocked a Second Full Day

Osama Rabie, Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, monitors the situation near stranded container ship Ever Given, one of the world's largest container ships, after it ran aground, in Suez Canal, Egypt, March 25, 2021.

The Japanese owner of a huge container ship that is blocking the Suez Canal has issued an apology, as the crucial waterway remained closed to shipping traffic for the second full day.

Operators of the 400-meter cargo ship Ever Given – the size of skyscraper – say it lost power as it encountered strong winds and ran aground sideways as it headed into the Suez Canal from the Red Sea Tuesday. Efforts to tug or dig it out have so far been unsuccessful. It was carrying 20,000 shipping containers loaded with goods when it ran aground.

On its website, the Japanese firm Shoei Kisen Kaisha wrote “We sincerely apologize for causing a great deal of concern to the vessels scheduled to sail and their related parties while navigating the Suez Canal due to the accident of this vessel.”

Up to 12 percent of the world’s total trade passes through the Suez Canal, which links Europe and Asia by connecting the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. By late Wednesday, more than 150 ships were waiting to pass through it.

At a Tokyo news conference Thursday, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, said the Japanese government is working closely with Egyptian authorities on the situation. However, Kato said, ''there is no estimated time for it to be resolved.''

The Suez Canal Authority says about 50 ships a day pass through the 193-kilometer manmade waterway, including oil tankers. The market research firm Kpler tells The New York Times the canal accounts for about one tenth the world’s daily oil supply.

Media reports say some ships were being diverted to an older, alternate channel, while others were offloading cargo containers onto trucks to get around the backup.

The canal is also a major source of income for Egypt, which controls the waterway and collects an average of $700,000 per ship in tolls. The Suez Canal Authority says nearly 19,000 ships a year pass through it.