Friday saw international shipping companies start to reroute cargo from the Suez Canal following a giant container ship, the Ever Given, blocking maritime traffic in one of the world's busiest waterways after getting stuck sideways.
Earlier in the day, at least seven tankers with a cargo of liquefied natural gas (LNG) on board were diverted from the canal, which connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas, according to the data intelligence company Kpler.
Three of the tankers were rerouted towards the Cape of Good Hope off South Africa, with the rest currently on their way elsewhere, the company reported.
Kpler analyst Rebecca Chia said that "a total of 16 LNG vessels' planned transit via the Suez Сanal will be affected if the congestion persists until the end of this week".
The remarks came as the international shipping company Maersk said that it was "looking at all alternatives" related to its nine container ships currently stranded in the canal.
This followed Peter Sand, chief shipping analyst at the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO), telling CNN that "everyone is making contingency plans as we speak".
Egypt's Suez Canal Authority (SCA) deploys tug boats to help shift the large container ship, the Ever Given, which has run aground in the canal.— Info-Africa (@1SpiritOfAfrica) March 24, 2021
The SCA says it has reopened the canal's older channel to divert traffic to resume the movement of cargo vessels. pic.twitter.com/Pgnt3udYVr
The Associated Press has, meanwhile, quoted an unnamed source as saying that the refloating operation is a "very sensitive and complicated" process, which needs to "be handled very carefully".
On Thursday, the company Shoei Kisen Kaisha, the Japanese owner of the Ever Given, apologised for the unintended setback as officials tasked with clearing the passage suggest it may take weeks.
"The situation is extremely difficult. We sincerely apologise for causing a great deal of concern to the vessels scheduled to sail and all related parties while navigating the Suez Canal", the company's officials said, adding that none of the crew members aboard the container ship sustained any injuries, and that at present there are no indications of any oil spills as a result of the incident.
The Panama-flagged cargo ship, measuring 400 metres in length and with a carrying capacity of 224,000 tonnes, was on her way from China to the Netherlands when it became stranded in the Suez Canal on Tuesday, bringing traffic in the crucial maritime lane to a halt.