The Suez Canal remained open to ship transits Thursday and shipping companies are re-opening offices despite escalating violence in Cairo between supporters and opponents of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and a nationwide curfew.
"The Suez Canal is functioning without delays," Inchcape Shipping Services said in an update Thursday.
"However, ports are being hampered by a lack of labor and fuel for dockside equipment," the international marine services company said.
According to published reports from the region, many ships transiting the canal are not stopping for routine services or changing crews out of concern for the safety of their workers.
Container terminals are working between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., but there is congestion on the terminal side as containers are not being released.
Bulk operations are only taking place for non-direct delivery cargo, but oil and gas terminals are fully operational, Inchcape said.
With a curfew in place between 3 p.m. and 8 a.m., there are difficulties contacting offices of shipping companies and shipping agents. Inchcape said its staff is working from home with mobile phone and internet access.
A.P. Moller-Maersk said its Maersk Line, Safmarine and Damco offices re-opened Thursday after being shut for three days and there are limited vessel operations at the Suez Canal Container Terminal in Port Said, which is majority owned by its APM Terminals unit.
Maersk, which has around 7,000 employees in Egypt, confirmed its ships are transiting the Suez Canal as scheduled. On average four to five Maersk Line and Safmarine container vessels sail through the waterway every day.
Container ships make up the largest single share of vessel transits through the canal and several shipping lines say they are watching the situation closely for signs of disruption.
"We plan to continue our Evergreen Line services through the Suez Canal but our priority will be the safety our crew and ship, as well as the cargo entrusted to us," a spokeswoman for Evergreen Marine said. "While the situation in Egypt continues to impact us commercially and operationally, omitting calls at ports in Egypt would be an unavoidable choice."
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