8 other times ships have run into problems in the Suez Canal


The massive cargo ship currently blocking the Suez Canal — holding up of billions of dollars worth of shipping each day — isn't the first time something has shut down the link between the Mediterranean and Red seas.

Ever Given, a cargo ship that is wedged across the Suez Canal and blocking traffic in the vital waterway, is seen Saturday. The ship can hold up to 20,000 containers. It's not the first time a troubled vessel has disrupted the key shipping route.(Mohamed Elshahed/The Associated Press)

The massive cargo ship currently blocking the Suez Canal — holding up of billions of dollars worth of shipping each day — isn't the first time something has shut down the link between the Mediterranean and Red seas.

The 400-metre-long Japanese-owned MV Ever Given has been stuck in a single-lane stretch of the famed canal, one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, since Tuesday. And although every effort is being made to clear the way, more than 300 ships were still waiting to get through as the problem persisted on Saturday.

But the canal has seen this kind of trouble before in its long history, sometimes shutting down for hours, days, weeks or — in one case — eight years.

In 1937, the U.K.-bound ship Viceroy of India ran aground, causing a holdup for its 700 passengers and the vessels behind it.

It shut down "all shipping" for a time, according to a report by The Associated Press from Cairo on April 11, the day traffic returned to normal.

An aerial view taken from the porthole of a commercial plane shows ships stranded in the Red Sea, as the MV Ever Given container ship — measuring 400 metres long and 59 metres wide — remains lodged sideways on Egypt's Suez Canal on Saturday.(Mahmoud Khaled/AFP/Getty Images)

"She was refloated after part of the cargo was unloaded," the report said.

A British freighter, the Lord Church, also ran aground in September 1953, "holding up six following ships," The Associated Press reported, and a year later a 10,000-ton tanker called the World Peace struck a railway bridge, causing another traffic tie-up.

The World Peace, owned by a Greek company headed by the brother-in-law of Aristotle Onassis, managed to block the canal "more effectively than Axis bombs did in World War II," according to the New York Times.

More than 200 ships were forced to anchorwhile the problem, which cleared after three days, was dealt with, Reuters reported.

One year later, Egypt sparked a brief war when President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the canal, which until then had been controlled by British and French interests.

Britain, France and Israel attacked Egypt that fall. But the Suez Crisis, as it became known, lasted little more than a week — quelled in November by a United Nations peacekeeping force that Lester Pearson, the future Canadian prime minister, helped muster and for which he later won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Lt. Gen. Ossama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority, investigates the situation after the Ever Given became wedged across the canal.(Suez Canal Authority/The Associated Press)

The crisis closed the canal until March 30, when, according to a report in the Toronto Star, "the first convoy to transit the Suez Canal in five months cleared through Port Said … and passed into the Mediterranean to a deafening salvo of whistles and cheers."

Five months later, in August, a 9,000-ton tanker called the Barbaros ran aground, damaged its rudder and held up traffic for nearly a day, according to The Associated Press.

Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser waves as he moves through Port Said, Egypt, on June 18, 1956, during a ceremony in which Egypt formally took over control of the Suez Canal from Britain.(The Associated Press)

The stranded 'Yellow Fleet'

A decade later, at the outbreak of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war — also known as the Six-Day War — Egypt closed the Suez Canal to international shipping traffic. More than a dozen cargo ships were stranded partway along the canal route for eight years.

The ships stranded on Great Bitter Lake were "manned by skeleton crews, employed by insurance companies who paid off the owners long ago and hope one day to recover part of their losses," journalist Arnold Bruner reported from the scene for CBC News in late 1973.

By that point, Bruner said, all that was left were the ships, which the crews called the "Yellow Fleet," and cargo that could not be salvaged — including some rotted cotton shown in the footage in his report.

A group of cargo ships is seen anchored in place in the Suez Canal in late 1973. The canal remained closed to international shipping for eight years after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

"If peace does come to the Middle East and the Suez Canal is eventually opened, these ships may finally go home," Bruner said.

"When will that be? That's what the men of the rusting Bitter Lake fleet have been asking themselves for six and a half years, and the answer is as far away as ever."

The canal reopened on June 5, 1975, with a ceremony attended by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

The Toronto Star quoted Sadat the following day as saying he hoped the canal would again be "a channel of prosperity for the world."

The same report said a commercial convoy — involving ships from Kuwait, Greece, the Soviet Union, China and Yugoslavia — began transiting the canal two hours after the ceremony.

Other, more recent, delays have included another grounding in 2016 and a multi-ship collision in 2018, according to Bloomberg News.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, wearing dark glasses and naval uniform, attends the reopening ceremony for the canal on June 5, 1975.(Bettmann/Getty Images)

With files from The Associated Press and Reuters

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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