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Disabled Tanker Briefly Blocking Suez Canal Towed to Anchorage

The disabled tanker was towed further south and positioned to the side of the channel for repairs (Suez Canal Authority photos)

The Suez Canal Authority is reporting that after a brief interruption traffic has resumed as normal in the waterway after a tanker was briefly disabled earlier today, June 4. It comes as the Suez Canal has experienced a spate of recent incidents with ships breaking down and impacting traffic.

The Suezmax crude oil tanker Seavigour, registered in Malta and managed by Greece’s Thenamaris group, experienced engine problems shortly after commencing a southbound transit from the Mediterranean. AIS data shows the 158,566 dwt tanker had been in France since May and reports said it is underway for China.

The canal authority dispatched three tugs to assist the tanker after it reported engine problems at the 12 km mark. The vessel was in a single lane traffic section of the Suez Canal and its breakdown was impacting eight additional vessels in the southbound convoy. Vessels coming from the south were continuing but were being held at Great Lake while the rescue operation was underway.



Tugs were used to reposition the vessel while the crew works on repairs (SCA)


Reports said the tanker dropped anchor when it began experiencing engine problems. The tow was delayed according to media reports because the anchor winch was also not working. Once they were able to raise the anchor, the three tugs repositioned the vessel to a position near the 17 km mark where they were able to reposition it to the side of the channel which is wider for two-way traffic. The operation took approximately one and a quarter hours to complete.

The authority released pictures showing other vessels going around the disabled tanker while reporting the crew was working on making repairs. The AIS signal shows that the tanker remains in the anchorage near Ismailia near the center of the canal. 

The Suez Canal Authority later reported that a total of 60 vessels made the transit today carrying 3.5 million tons of cargo. That compared with Friday, June 2, when 67 ships made the transit with 4.2 million tons. The prior day, 63 ships made the transit with 3.8 million tons.


Pictures show vessels going around the disabled tanker after it was moved to the side of the channel (SCA)


The head of the Canal Authority Admiral Osama Rabie was quoted as saying they are well prepared for these occurrences with an expanded tug fleet and improvements to the canal’s systems. During the recent bad weather in the area, he said extra navigation observers had been posted and they were using the AIS data to closely monitor movements. 

The Suez Canal has seen a series of disabled vessels this year all threatening traffic but each was quickly removed from chokepoints along the route. Two weeks ago, the Chinese bulker Xin Hai Tong 23 briefly grounded in the southern portion of the canal, and in March a containership, MSC Istanbul, also had a mechanical problem and briefly grounded also in the southern portion of the canal. In January, a bulker, MV Glory, also had a mechanical problem as it was beginning the southbound transit. In each of these occurrences, the Suez Canal Authority was quickly able to resolve the blockage to keep traffic moving in the canal.

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