US military offers to help in blocked Suez Canal

The Ever Given container ship which ran aground in the Suez Canal, Egypt, on March 26, 2021.
The Ever Given container ship which ran aground in the Suez Canal, Egypt, on March 26, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE/SUEZ CANAL AUTHORITY

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States said Friday (March 26) it was prepared to help Egypt try and dislodge the massive container ship that has blocked the Suez Canal since Tuesday, with a team of US Navy experts which could be deployed quickly if requested.

"As part of our active diplomatic dialogue with Egypt, we've offered US assistance to Egyptian authorities to help reopen the canal," said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

"We are consulting with our Egyptian partners about how we can best support their efforts," she said, calling those consultations "ongoing."

Navy Captain Bill Urban, the spokesman for the US Central Command, which operates across the Middle East, said they are ready to act if requested.

"We have offered and stand ready to assist Egypt, and will look to support any specific request we receive," he said in a statement. "We continue to monitor and assess the situation, but have nothing to provide on any potential specific support at this time."

One of the US Central Command's main missions in the region is to protect commercial ship traffic.

According to a US defence official who insisted on remaining anonymous, Washington has offered to send a team of Navy experts to help.

If Egypt makes a formal request, the team can be on the way on Saturday from Bahrain, the regional base of the US 5th Fleet.

So far, the official said, there has not been any approval for such a move.

The US military can also give support and advice to ships which, blocked from using the canal, opt for the long journey around the southern tip of Africa, which could take them through waters menaced by pirates.

"We can certainly do advising, but we cannot escort all of them," the official said.