This week, the container ship that had been stranded in the Suez Canal for several days earlier this year finally sailed away after its owners reached a multimillion-dollar compensation agreement with Egyptian authorities in exchange for its release. The agreement brought an end to an almost month-long saga involving passage through a critical global trade route.
The agreement was signed at the Suez Canal Authority’s offices in Ismailia early Wednesday morning by representatives of Ever Given’s owners.
Neither the SCA nor the ship’s captain provided any specifics about the arrangement that permitted the ship to exit the canal. A fair agreement for all parties was reached, according to the chairman, Osama Rabie, after months of intense talks. His statement said, “A significant portion of the compensation sum has already been paid to the authorities with the remainder to be received later this month.”
Foreign diplomats were in attendance for a ceremony to commemorate the ship’s departure from the port in Ismailia, which was aired live on Egyptian television as a reference to how the ship’s grounding and ultimate seizure by Egyptian officials captured the world’s attention.
The ship was stuck in the Suez Canal for almost a week in March before it was able to be towed out. The SCA had sought reimbursement for the expenses of the rescue effort, as well as for damage to the canal’s banks and lost earnings. Earlier, an Egyptian court had ordered the ship’s seizure after Egyptian officials had originally demanded about $900 million in compensation.
According to sources involved with the negotiations, a tentative agreement was reached late last month between Ever Given’s owner and insurers, as well as the SCA, that asked for about $200 million in damages. In the meanwhile, Egyptian media reports that the sum is much larger, and that the transaction also includes a tugboat, which Mr Rabie claimed on Wednesday was a present from the shipowner in recognition of the SCA’s efforts throughout the crisis. When asked about the details of the agreement at the time, the shipowner, Japan’s Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the charterer, Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine Corp, and the ship’s technical manager, Bernhard.
It was on March 23 when the Ever Given, a 1330-foot vessel, went aground in the Suez Canal. A worldwide maritime traffic bottleneck resulted as boats were stranded on both sides of the canal, waiting for it to be removed. It blocked the whole width of the waterway. Other ships diverted around the canal to avoid being caught in the current. Engineers and sailors from Egypt, working with an expert Dutch salvage team, worked around the clock for six days to release the ship, which was finally able to dislodge it on the 29th of March.
The snarl-up brought attention to the significant economic risks associated with such incidents. In addition to disrupting supply lines across the globe, it also threw a wrench into the normally meticulously choreographed management of the world’s containers, which are used by shippers to load products for shipment by sea. Because of the canal’s location between the Mediterranean and Red Seas, it accounts for up to 13 per cent of all seaborne commerce and about 10 per cent of all maritime oil exports.
A recorded statement from Yukito Higaki, president of Japan’s Imabari Shipbuilding Co.—which includes the ship’s owner, Shoei Kisen—to the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said that his company’s ships will continue to utilise the
There are 18,000 containers on board the Ever Given, which is carrying millions of dollars in products that are now months late.
The Ever Given was going to the neighbouring port of Port Said, according to the shipowner, for a diving inspection of the ship. As soon as it is authorised, the ship will continue her journey to the next port, where her cargo will be unloaded, according to the statement.
Authorities in Egypt said in May that the ship’s skipper had lost control and struck the canal’s embankment. In a statement, the ship’s attorney accused the SCA of permitting the ship to enter the canal when a severe sandstorm was raging over Egypt at the time of the accident. It had been determined that a quick gust of wind was responsible for the disaster during the first inquiry.
Egypt has been dealing with several transportation problems lately, and this was the latest in a long line of issues to arise. The 2016 accident of an EgyptAir aircraft from Paris undermined worldwide trust in President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi’s administration, with French authorities accusing Egyptian investigators of impeding the investigation into the cause of the disaster.
As he faced one of the most significant tests of his government’s leadership, Mr Sisi, a former general who seized power in a military coup in 2013 and ordered an $8.5 billion expansion of the canal the following year.
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