Tugboat sinks in Egypt's Suez Canal after colliding with tanker

This is a locator map for the Suez Canal and the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, with its capital, Cairo. (AP Photo) (Uncredited, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

CAIRO – A tugboat sank Saturday in Egypt's Suez Canal after it collided with a Hong Kong-flagged tanker, the waterway’s authorities said.

In a statement, the Suez Canal Authority, which oversees the operation of the key water passage, said its teams were working to recover the tugboat after it launched an operation to save the seven-person crew. It did not mention whether the movement of other ships transporting through the canal had been affected.

The canal, which connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas, sees periodic groundings of mega-large transport ships that go through it, many of them traveling between China and Europe and the Western Hemisphere. Tugboats help guide ships passing through.

The tanker involved in Saturday's collision, the authority said, was the Hong Kong-flagged tanker Chinagas Legend, which it said was now waiting in Port Said.

In March 2021 a skyscraper-sized container ship, the Panama-flagged Ever Given, ran aground in a single-lane stretch of the canal, blocking the waterway. A massive salvage effort by a flotilla of tugboats, helped by the tides, freed it six days later, ending the crisis and allowing hundreds of waiting ships to pass through the canal.

Opened in 1869, the Suez Canal provides a vital link for oil, natural gas and cargo of Egypt’s top foreign currency earners. In 2015, President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s government completed a major expansion of the canal, allowing it to accommodate the world’s largest vessels.