Attempts to free a grounded container ship blocking the Suez Canal waterway will continue around the clock, officials say.
Dredgers working to dislodge the stranded vessel have so far shifted 27,000 cubic metres of sand to reach a depth of 18 metres, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said in a statement on Sunday.
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has ordered preparations for the possible removal of some of the ship's cargo to help refloat it, SCA Chairman Osama Rabie told Egypt's Extra News.
The 400-metre long Ever Given became wedged diagonally across a southern section of the canal amid high winds early on Tuesday, blocking one of the world's busiest waterways.
About 15 per cent of world shipping traffic transits the canal and by Saturday evening local time, 321 boats were waiting to access the waterway.
"There are positive indicators from yesterday and the day before yesterday," Rabie told Egyptian state TV.
"The rudder was not moving and it is now moving, the propeller is working now, there was no water underneath the bow, and now there is water under it, and yesterday there was a four-metre deviation in the bow and the stern."
However, two SCA sources told Reuters that a mass of rock had been found at the bow of the ship, complicating salvage efforts.
Rescue workers from the SCA and a team from Dutch firm Smit Salvage have been weighing whether some of the Ever Given's 18,300 containers will need to be removed by crane in order to refloat it.
Experts have warned that such a process could be complex and lengthy.
"We're dividing the day into two halves, 12 hours for dredgers and 12 hours for tugs, because not all times are suitable for tugs due to the tide," Rabie said, adding that 14 tug boats were being deployed.
Shipping rates for oil product tankers nearly doubled after the Ever Given became stranded, and the blockage has disrupted global supply chains, threatening costly delays for companies already dealing with COVID-19 restrictions.