Tug boats had spent several hours on Monday working to free the bow of the massive vessel after dislodging the stern earlier in the day.
Marine traffic websites showed images of the ship away from the banks of the Suez Canal for the first time in seven days following an around-the-clock international effort to reopen the global shipping lane.
The successful refloating was met with triumph and relief, as hundreds of vessels that have been trapped since last Tuesday prepare to restart their journeys.
“We pulled it off!” Boskalis, a salvage company which helped with the operation, said in a statement Monday.
“Boskalis announces the successful salvage operation of the grounded 20,000 TEU container vessel Ever Given in the Suez Canal,” the firm said, adding: “With a length of 400 meters and a width of nearly 60 meters, this giant ship had been wedged in this vital shipping route since 23 March 2021 blocking all shipping traffic.”
The ship was refloated at 3pm Egypt Standard Time on Monday (9a ET), according to Evergreen.
The vessel is now in Bitter Lakes, Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, said in a Monday press conference.
“We will not allow it to leave before making sure that it is safe to sail, and also after conducting an investigation to find out the cause of the accident, because this will entail compensation. The Canal from its part does not have any error,” Rabie said.
Navigation on both directions of the Suez Canal resumed at 6 pm local time, he said. The challenge faced now is the backlog and congestion of the ships, he said, adding that at the current rate of working day and night, it could take three or three and a half days to end the congestion of ships.
There are still 422 ships waiting to go through the Suez Canal, Rabie said, adding that the canal’s authorities decided the ships will be able to cross the canal on a first come first serve basis, though the ships carrying livestock were permitted to cross in the first convoy of the day.
The average number of ships that transited through the canal on a daily basis before the accident was between 80 to 90 ships, according to Lloyds List; however, the head of the Suez Canal Authority said that the channel will work over 24 hours a day to facilitate the passage of almost 400 ships carrying billions of dollars in freight.
The journey to cross the canal takes 10 to 12 hours and in the event the channel operates for 24 hours, two convoys per day will be able to successfully pass through.
Still, shipping giant Maersk issued an advisory telling customers it could take “6 days or more” for the line to clear. The company said that was an estimate and subject to change as more vessels reach the blockage or are diverted.
The rescue operation had intensified in both urgency and global attention with each day that passed, as ships from around the world, carrying vital fuel and cargo, were blocked from entering the canal during the crisis, raising alarm over the impact on global supply chains.
Promising signs first emerged earlier on Monday when the rear of the vessel was freed from one of the canal’s banks.
People at the canal cheered as news of Monday’s progress came in.
“Thank God the ship has floated,” one person could be heard saying in a video, as the surrounding boats blew their horns in celebration. “God is great. The ship has floated.”
The Ever Given container ship has been dislodged and is now floating, after blocking the Suez Canal for almost a week, authorities said Monday.