April 5 (UPI) -- U.S. Navy ships, led by the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, this weekend transited the Suez Canal for the first time since its March 29 reopening.
The weekend north-to-south passage from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea involved the aircraft carrier and three escort ships in its carrier strike group, the Navy said in a press release.
The canal, regarded as a crucial global waterway, was blocked for nearly one week after the cargo ship Ever Given was grounded while passing through the canal.
Over 400 ships, including those of the strike group, awaited the dislodging of the cargo ship from the bank of the canal.
"We appreciate the Government of Egypt and Suez Canal Authority's efforts to ensure the safety of navigation in this critical waterway for all ships, and in allowing the IKE CSG to transit so quickly," Vice Adm. Samuel Paparo, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said Saturday in the Navy's press release.
The aircraft carrier, with the cruiser USS Monterey and the destroyers USS Mitscher and USS Thomas Hudner entered the Red Sea on Friday.
While in the Mediterranean Sea, pilots and flight crews aboard the carrier strike group conducted operations in support of the multinational anti-Islamic State campaign in Syria and Iraq known as Operation Inherent Resolve.
Last week, Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said that the U.S. Navy had long considered the possibility of blockages at chokepoints like the Suez Canal, and was prepared to use alternate routes for the passage of its ships.
The Navy has "at its disposal any number of alternate ways of achieving mission success and meeting our mission requirements," Kirby said in a March 29 press conference.
After the successful transit of the carrier strike group, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Group, embarked on the Makin Island Expeditionary Ready Group, announced the end of its support, from the Indian Ocean, of the OIR campaign.
The three-ship ARG, composed of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island and transport docks USS Somerset and USS San Diego then joined the Indo-Pacific Command of the U.S. 7th Fleet.
On Saturday, the cruiser USS Philippine Sea was the first Navy vessel to transit the canal since the incident in a south-to-north direction.