Ships have started sailing through Egypt’s Suez Canal again, a day after a giant container vessel blocking the vital trade route was freed.

Thirty-seven ships that were struck at the midway point cleared the waterway overnight, while 70 others are due to travel its entire length on Tuesday.

The canal authorities hope to clear the traffic jam of some 300 vessels waiting to use it within three-and-a-half days.

Meanwhile, the freed ship will be inspected for seaworthiness by experts.

The 400m-long (1,312ft), 200,000-tonne Ever Given became wedged diagonally across the canal a week ago after running aground amid high winds.

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It was refloated on Monday afternoon after a salvage operation involving a flotilla of powerful tug boats and dredging vessels that shifted 30,000 cubic metres (1,059,000 cubic ft) of mud and sand.

About 12% of global trade passes through the 193km (120-mile) canal, which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea and provides the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe.

At a news conference on Monday night, the head of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), Osama Rabie, declared that it would be running at full capacity to clear the backlog as soon as possible.

“We won’t sleep. This is a new challenge we are working on,” he said. “We will work around the clock until we get through the ships. We have faith in this.”

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Canal services provider Leth Agencies said 306 vessels were waiting as of Tuesday morning – 163 at Suez in the Red Sea, 137 at Port Said in the Mediterranean, and six at the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water that marks the midway point.

Forty-five ships are currently sailing southwards in two convoys, one of which will rendezvous with the six vessels in the lake, while 25 vessels are moving northwards from Suez. The average transit time is between 11 and 12 hours.

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