The Suez Canal remained open to vessel traffic on Tuesday, but A.P. Moller-Maersk closed its Suez container terminal for a second day and DP World suspended operations near Cairo as mass protests against President Hosni Mubarak grew in Egypt's capital.
Hanjin Shipping became one of the first container lines to announce changed operations because of the unrest in Egypt. The South Korean operator said it is re-routing some of its container ships away from the country because of the lack of labor and IT systems at Port Said in Suez and Alexandria.
Oil prices on world markets, meantime, were hovering around $100 a barrel on Tuesday amid concerns that the unrest would disrupt tanker ship transits through the canal.
But the canal remained open and operating normally, according to reports in the region.
With the embattled Mubarak government imposing curfews in Cairo and other cities, however, workers faced major hurdles in reaching terminals and offices and maritime companies shuttered offices.
With its Port Said operations closed, A.P. Moller-Maersk closed the offices of its Maersk Line, Safmarine and Damco subsidiaries in Egypt. "APM Terminals' Suez Canal Container Terminal in Port Said is not operating, however a skeleton crew is manning the reefer containers and IT systems," the company said in a statement.
With Cairo's airport reportedly in turmoil as people tried to flee and airlines canceled flights, the Danish company chartered an aircraft to evacuate 44 relatives of international staff to Copenhagen.
DP World, the global container terminal operator, said it had suspended operations at the port of Ain Sukhna at the southern end of the waterway in the Red Sea, some 75 miles from Cairo, the Egyptian capital.
The Egyptian army has deployed troops to guard the 220 mile long Sumed pipeline, which is currently pumping around one million barrels a day of crude oil alongside the Suez Canal.
The Suez Canal Authority is reported to have doubled the number of sentry posts along the waterway.
-- Contact Bruce Barnard at firstname.lastname@example.org.