Hopes have risen that a mega-ship blocking Egypt's Suez Canal could be refloated within days, even as the crisis forced companies to consider re-routing vessels around the southern tip of Africa.
The president of Shoei Kisen - the Japanese firm which owns the giant container vessel - said it could be freed from the canal bed as early as tonight, while the parent company of the Dutch salvage firm in charge of the operation eyed a target of early next week.
The MV Ever Given, which at 400m is longer than four football fields, has been wedged diagonally across the span of the canal since Tuesday, blocking the waterway in both directions.
Billions of euro worth of cargo are now stalled at either end of the vital shipping lane between Asia and Europe, with their owners mulling whether to wait it out or take the longer and more expensive route around the Cape of Good Hope at the cost of up to 12 additional days at sea.
Egypt's Suez Canal Authority chief said that strong wind was not the main reason for the grounding of the MV Ever Given cargo ship in the waterway.
"Strong winds and weather factors were not the main reasons for the ship's grounding, there may have been technical or human errors," Osama Rabie said at a press conference in Suez.
"All of these factors will become apparent in the investigation," he added.
Asked when the ship could be afloat again, he suggested it was possible "today or tomorrow, depending on the ship's responsiveness to the tides".
At a press conference in Japan yesterday, the president of the Shoei Kisen shipping group told local media there were no signs of damage to its engines and various instruments.
"The ship is not taking water. There is no problem with its rudders and propellers. Once it refloats, it should be able to operate," Yukito Higaki said, according to the news agency Asahi Shimbun.
The company aims to free the ship "Saturday night Japan time", he added. Japan is nine hours ahead of Ireland.
"We are continuing work to remove sediment as of now, with additional dredging tools," Mr Higaki said, according to the agency.
Workers have begun using machinery that can remove pulverised rocks in a bid to free the ship, when the canal will be at high tide.
The blockage has caused a huge traffic jam of more than 200 ships at both ends of the 193km long canal and major delays in the delivery of oil and other products.
Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) - the ship's technical manager - said yesterday that an attempt to refloat the vessel had failed.
"The focus is now on dredging to remove sand and mud from around the port side of the vessel's bow," the firm said.
Smit Salvage, a Dutch firm that has worked on some of the most famous wrecks of recent years, confirmed there would be "two additional tugs" arriving to assist.
There had been "no reports of pollution or cargo damage and initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding."
Crews had been seen working through the night, using a large dredging machine under floodlights.
But the vessel - with gross tonnage of 219,000 - has yet to budge, forcing global shipping giant Maersk and Germany's Hapag-Lloyd to look into re-routing around the southern tip of Africa.