Oil tanker breaks down in Egypt’s Suez Canal, briefly disrupting traffic

Tugboats transport the Malta-flagged Seavigour to a two-lane part of the waterway, as crews work to repair it

A tugboat pushes the Seavigour, after it suffered a mechanical malfunction in the Suez Canal, Egypt, June 4, 2023. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)
A tugboat pushes the Seavigour, after it suffered a mechanical malfunction in the Suez Canal, Egypt, June 4, 2023. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — A tanker transporting crude oil broke down in a single-lane part of Egypt’s Suez Canal on Sunday, briefly disrupting traffic in the global waterway, Egyptian authorities said.

The Malta-flagged Seavigour suffered a mechanical malfunction at the 12- kilometer (7.5-mile) mark of the canal, said George Safwat, a spokesperson for Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority. The tanker was transiting the canal from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.

In a phone interview with a local television station, Adm. Ossama Rabei, the head of the canal authority, said the tanker broke down in a single-lane part of the waterway, disrupting the transit of eight other vessels behind it.

Hours later, Rabei said in a statement that navigation at the canal had returned to normal after three tugboats towed the tanker to a double-lane part at the 17- kilometer (10.5-mile) mark. He said the Seavigour’s crew was working on repairing the malfunction, but did not share additional details.

The Seavigour was built in 2016, and is 274 meters (899 feet) long and 48.63 meters (159 feet) wide, according to MarineTraffic, a vessel tracking service provider.

Sunday’s incident was the latest case of a vessel reported stuck in the vital waterway. A flurry of ships have run aground or broken down in the Suez Canal over the past few years.

On May 25, a Hong Kong-flagged ship briefly blocked the canal. On March 5, a Liberia-flagged ship ran aground in the two-lane part of the waterway. Both vessels were refloated hours later.

In March 2021, the Panama-flagged Ever Given, a colossal container ship, crashed into a bank on a single-lane stretch of the canal, blocking the waterway for six days and disrupting global trade.

The canal, which opened in 1869, provides a crucial link for oil, natural gas and cargo. About 10 percent of world trade flows through the canal, a major source of foreign currency for the Egyptian government.

According to the Suez Canal Authority, last year 23,851 vessels passed through the waterway, compared to 20,649 vessels in 2021. The revenue from the canal in 2022 reached $8 billion, the highest in its history.

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