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Suez traffic returns to normal after ship briefly stranded

CAIRO (Reuters) -Tugboats managed to move a large ship that had been stranded for several hours in the Suez Canal on Thursday, and sources said shipping traffic through one of the world's busiest waterways had returned to normal.

Two canal sources said traffic was back to normal by around 11 a.m. local time (0800 GMT), about six hours after the incident began and 3-1/2 hours after the vessel was tugged away.

Shipping agent Leth Agencies identified the ship as the 190-metre (623-foot) Xin Hai Tong 23, a bulk carrier.

"The Suez Canal Authority has successfully refloated M/V XIN HAI TONG 23 at 0740hrs (0440 GMT). The northbound convoy will enter at 0930hrs," it said in a tweet.

In a statement, canal authorities said they had been informed of an engine malfunction and deployed tugboats to successfully move the ship. The process was briefly delayed by the failure of the ship's winch, they added.

A canal source said it had not been "refloated" as the ship had not run aground.

"Shipping activity on both directions would return to normal as soon as the towing process is finished, as a precautionary measure," the canal authorities said.

Leth had previously tweeted that the vessel had disrupted at least two convoys of ships.

Refinitiv Eikon shipping data had shown the ship, which sails under the Hong Kong flag, as "not under command" near the southern end of the canal. It was initially positioned at an angle with its stern abutting the canal's eastern side but later appeared to have been moved towards the center and pointed south. Three Egyptian tugboats were surrounding it.

The ship had originated from Dhuba port in Saudi Arabia. It is owned by Xiang B12 HK International Ship Lease and managed by Tosco Keymax International Ship Management.

Approximately 12% of the world's trade moves through the canal. During strong winds in 2021, a huge container ship, the Ever Given, became jammed across it, halting traffic in both directions for six days and disrupting global trade.

Last year, tug boats refloated an oil tanker that was briefly stranded in the canal after a technical fault with its rudder, while the breakdown of a container ship in the canal caused minor delays in March.

(Reporting by Hatem Maher and Ahmed Tolba in Cairo, Tala Ramadan in DubaiWriting by Nafisa EltahirEditing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Christian Schmollinger, Lincoln Feast, Peter Graff and Frances Kerry)