Egypt on Thursday announced the full suspension of shipping in the Suez Canal, where efforts are underway to refloat a giant container ship that has run aground and disrupted traffic on one of the world's busiest trade routes.
The Panama-flagged ship, Ever Given, ran aground in the man-made canal on Tuesday due to a sandstorm, reportedly leaving dozens of other cargo vessels blocked from passing the major waterway, dpa news agency reported.
The 400-metres-long tanker veered off its course while sailing through the waterway on a Rotterdam-bound voyage coming from China.
On Thursday, the head of the state-run Suez Canal Authority (SCA), Admiral Osama Rabae, said that navigation would be temporarily suspended during final ongoing efforts to free Ever Given.
"Efforts to refloat the ship have included pulling and pushing by eight giant tug boats," Rabae said in a statement.
He did not say how long the refloating efforts would take.
Suez Canal is crucial for Egypt
Thirteen ships passed through the canal on Wednesday despite the mishap, Rabae added without giving further details.
The Suez Canal provides one of Egypt's main sources of income, alongside tourism and remittances from expatriates.
In 2015, Egypt opened a 35 km extension running parallel to the historical canal, which was inaugurated in 1869.
The expansion allows two-way traffic along the previously one-way canal and is designed to reduce the waiting time for vessels.
The artificial waterway connects the Mediterranean and Red seas, providing the shortest shipping route between Asia and Europe.
(With inputs from IANS)