Ship that blocked Suez Canal in March is released

The megatanker that Egypt has retained since it blocked the Suez Canal in March is set to be released on Wednesday after the authority managing the vital waterway said a deal has been reached with its Japanese owners.

The MV Ever Given — a 199,000-tonne behemoth — became stuck diagonally across the canal during a sandstorm on March 23, blocking the trade artery for six days before salvage teams could free it.

Egypt retained the ship to seek compensation from Japanese firm Shoei Kisen Kaisha for lost canal revenues and the costs of saving it and for damage to the shipping route connecting Asia and Europe.

The Suez Canal Authority said in a statement that a ceremony will be held on Wednesday to mark the signing of an agreement with the owners and “the ship’s departure”.

The amount of compensation was not disclosed in the statement issued on Sunday.

Egypt lost between $12 million and $15 million in revenue for every day the waterway was closed, according to the Suez Canal Authority.

The grounding of the ship and the intensive salvage efforts required to get it back afloat also resulted in significant damage to the canal.

A member of the London-based law firm Stann Marine, which represents the owners and insurers of the Ever Given, confirmed in a statement that preparations were being made for the release.

“We are pleased to announce that … good progress has been made and a formal solution has been agreed” between the two sides, Faz Peermohamed said in the statement.

Non disclosure agreement

Last week, Osama Rabie, head of the Suez Canal Authority, said Egypt had signed a nondisclosure agreement with the owners of the Ever Given when it finalized the compensation deal.

Initially, Egypt had claimed hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, but later reduced its initial claim from $900 million to $550 million.

The Taiwan-operated Panama-flagged vessel was moved to an unobstructed anchorage in the Suez Canal after it was liberated on March 29, and traffic jams of a total of 420 ships were cleared at the canal’s northern and southern entrances in early April.

In April, maritime data company Lloyd’s List said the ship’s blockade, lasting more than four football fields, held up an estimated $9.6 billion worth of cargo between Asia and Europe every day.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has ruled out any widening of the southern part of the canal, where the boat got stuck diagonally.

Sisi oversaw an expansion of a northern section, which included widening an existing stretch and introducing a 35-kilometer (21-mile) parallel waterway, too much fanfare in 2014-15.

But that was accomplished at a cost of more than $8 billion, without significantly increasing the channel’s revenue.

The Suez Canal earned Egypt just over $5.7 billion in fiscal year 2019/20, according to official figures — little changed from the $5.3 billion earned in 2014.


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