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Divers examine bottom of big boat that got stuck sideways in Suez

The Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship, is pulled by one of the Suez Canal tugboats, in the Suez Canal, Egypt, March 29, 2021. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)
The Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship, is pulled by one of the Suez Canal tugboats, in the Suez Canal, Egypt, March 29, 2021. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

Divers inspected the underside of a colossal containership that had blocked the Suez Canal, spotting some damage to the bow but not severe enough to ground the vessel, officials say.

The dives were part of a continuing investigation into what caused the grounding of the Ever Given, now anchored in the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south ends of the canal.

Salvage teams succeeded in finally freeing the skyscraper-size vessel on Monday afternoon. The ship got stuck sideways in a narrow stretch of the canal, shaking the global shipping industry when it halted billions of dollars a day in maritime commerce for around a week.

Two senior canal officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters, say “slight to medium” damage was found at the vessel’s bulbous bow.

One of the officials, who is a canal pilot, says experts were studying the extent of damage, but he said it unlikely would impede the Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned ship’s navigation. He said the navigation of the ship would depend on “several legal and procedural” measures that the canal authority would discuss with Ever Given’s operator.

Investigations were ongoing to determine what caused the skyscraper-sized ship to become wedged across the canal.

When blame gets assigned, it will likely 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 now stuck in Egypt, so matters could quickly become complicated.

The vessel was freed Monday after a flotilla of tugboats, helped by the tides, wrenched its bulbous bow from the canal’s eastern bank, where it had been firmly lodged since March 23.

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