Japan officials to visit Egypt over Suez blockage

Japan's transport minister Akaba Kazuyoshi says his ministry is sending officials to Egypt after a Japanese-owned ship blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week.

The container vessel, owned by a firm based in the western Japanese prefecture of Ehime, became stranded in the canal last month, making it impossible for any ships to pass through.

Akaba told reporters on Friday he is grateful to Egyptian government officials and others who worked around the clock to free the vessel.

He called the canal a key waterway for the global economy, including Japan.

Akaba said his ministry is sending a team of experts to Egypt to thank those who worked hard to reopen the waterway, and to discuss ways to step up cooperation with the Egyptian government.

The ministry says four officials will be dispatched, and they will be ready to cooperate if they are asked to help with a probe into the incident and measures to prevent a recurrence.