Suez Canal Disrupted by “Slight Contact” Between Tanker and LNG Carrier

Suez Canal
Suez Canal tugs backed the Burri away and gudied it into the anchorage after the allision with the LNG carrier (SCA)

Published Aug 23, 2023 3:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Suez Canal Authority is blaming machinery failures for the latest incident in the waterway which once again briefly interrupted transits as the authority’s fleet of tugboats worked to clear the blockage.  While they are reporting that movement was back to normal after a few hours delay, it marked the eighth incident this year in the critical shipping lane.

Tracking shows that the southbound convoy encountered a problem in the early hours of Wednesday morning as the BW Lesmes, a Singapore-flagged LNG carrier (94,167 dwt) veered off course becoming stuck near the 144 kilometer mark, less than 10 kilometers from where the Ever Given grounded in 2021. Images show the BW Lesmes broadside across the channel. The Suez Canal Authority is blaming it on the vessel having experienced “a mechanical malfunction in its propulsion and steering systems.”

What is unclear, is that while the gas carrier was aground, a second tanker, the Burri (115,000 dwt) registered in the Cayman Islands appears to proceed past a third tanker, Athens Spirit (158,500 dwt), that was stopped at the side of the channel. The Burri then collided with the BW Lesmes which was still blocking the channel in a fender bender. Later reports are saying the Burri also experienced “a sudden steering failure.”



The Suez Canal Authority is blaming strong currents in the area for contributing to the allision where the Burri hit the stopped BW Lesmes and also ended up across the channel. The official account is that there was “a slight contact.” The authority reports there was no serious damage or pollution, with both vessels only showing dents and scrapes in the light of day.

The authority’s tugs secured towing lines to both vessels and were able to back the Burri away and reposition the tanker into the channel. After that, they were able to free the BW Lesmes. AIS signal shows that both vessels were moved to the southern anchorage outside the canal for repairs and an investigation.



Both vessels were reportedly left with minor marks after the tanker hit the gas carrier while it was aground (SCA)


Leth Agencies is reporting that there were 22 vessels in the southbound convoy during the incident. They were detained in the canal while the two vessels were cleared. Because it was in a single-lane area of the canal, the northbound convoy had not commenced. Today, Leth reports there were 22 vessels to travel northbound and a further 36 vessels for the southbound convoy.

This latest incident comes as the Suez Canal has experienced a rash of incidents in the past few months which the canal authority has called accidents, blaming failures from the ships. At the beginning of August, an LNG carrier collided with one of the canal authority’s tugs near the 53 km mark. The tug sunk killing one crewmember.

In April, there was another fender bender accident at Bitter Lake. Two Greek-managed tankers were preparing to get underway in one of the convoys when they made contact. This year has also seen a tanker become disabled that had to be towed out of the channel, bulkers break down or ground during the passage, and in March an MSC containership briefly grounded. Navigation has been interrupted by these incidents but in each case, the canal authority was able to quickly recover.

The Panama Maritime Authority however was critical of the SCA pilots in their report issued two years after the Ever Given grounding. The report criticized communications, failure to follow speed guidelines, and poor interaction with the captain and crew of the vessel they were piloting. Panama called for better preparation and planning by the Suez Canal Authority in managing vessels for the transit.