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Russian Oil Tanker Jams Suez Canal

The oil tanker Tropical Brilliance owned by the Russian partly state-owned Sovcomflot company and sailing under a Liberian flag has caused a traffic jam at the Suez Canal, after experiencing steering gear failure and grounding itself across the canal.

The incident happened on Saturday, Nov. 6, and the authorities say is unlikely to be resolved before Wednesday morning, Lloyds List reported.

As of Monday, Nov. 8, the overnight disruption on one of the world’s key short cuts for shipping had held up around 135 vessels. The consequences for oil supplies to Europe could be severe, with the accident happening in the middle of the pre-Christmas peak shipping season, and many large westbound container ships are among those delayed. That, in turn, will lead to further terminal congestion when they eventually arrive together at ports across Europe. Another consequence of the accident, which luckily enough did not cause any pollution, is that Egypt, which operates the Suez Canal, stands to lose $7 million in revenues for every day the canal remains closed.

After the accident the canal’s authorities attempted to use small tugs to pull the tanker free, but this proved to be unsuccessful. On Monday the authorities came up with another plan which to transfer around 25,000 tons of crude off the grounded vessel onto a smaller tanker. After this is done, a large tug will try to dislodge the ship and take it to a nearby safe anchorage for diving inspection.

Though the oil tanker in question is owned by a Russian company it sails under Liberian flag and is managed out of Cyprus by Unicom. Unicom has already issued a statement insisting that “Tropic Brilliance has been involved in no significant incidents in the past”. The managing company also claims that “the vessel’s certificates are in full compliance with all requirements [and] this tanker has never been subject to delay or detention as a result of port state inspection”. The spokesman for the flag state said that Liberia was investigating the incident and had established preliminary details. It is offering co-operation to the Suez authorities.

On Tuesday, November 9, afternoon it was announced that Tropical Brilliance was successfully floated off the shallow. The information was disclosed by the official representative of Sovkomflot Andrei Novikov, quoted by RIA Novosti agency.

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