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Egypt suspends traffic in Suez Canal as crews try to free grounded ship

March 25 (UPI) -- Officials said Thursday that traffic through the Suez Canal has been suspended indefinitely due to a 224,000-ton container ship that's been blocking the vital commercial passageway in Egypt for three days.

Operators barred all other ships from entering the canal -- which connects the Mediterranean and Red seas -- while crews work to free the Ever Given container ship, which ran aground on Tuesday.

Officials said several tugboats are working to dislodge the ship from the shallow waters it accidentally entered during a sandstorm. The length of the ship, nearly as long as the Empire State Building is tall, has complicated matters.

The Suez Canal Authority said more than a dozen ships from Port Said are sitting idle at Bitter Lakes until the container ship is freed. Maersk, the world's largest container shipping company, said several of its vessels are waiting for the canal to reopen.

In the meantime, the canal's closure is having a significant impact on global trade.

Economist David Fyfe told The New York Times about 5% of all traded crude oil and 10% of refined petroleum products passed through the Suez Canal before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Suez Canal, which is owned and managed by the Egyptian government, has been open since 1869 and offers cargo ships a more direct route between the Atlantic and Indian oceans. On average, dozens of ships pass through the canal every day.

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