ISMAILA, Egypt – Egyptian authorities announced Wednesday the release of a huge ship that had blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week earlier this year.
The Ever Given left the canal’s Great Bitter Lake, where it had been held for over three months in the midst of a financial dispute. The development came after its Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., reached an agreement with the canal authorities for a compensation amount after weeks of negotiations and a brief standoff.
The deal was signed Wednesday in a ceremony in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, after which the ship was seen sailing towards the Mediterranean Sea. An Associated Press video reporter aboard a tugboat saw the ship move north towards the Mediterranean as officials representing the Suez Canal, the ship’s owner and insurers, signed the deal in Ismailia.
“An agreement was reached that achieved justice and prioritized the interests of both sides,” said Lt. Gen. This was stated by Ossama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal. “A crisis that lasted more than three months has ended”.
Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd. said the ship will undergo an underwater investigation in the Egyptian Mediterranean city of Port Said before resuming its journey to the next port where its cargo will be unloaded.
Wednesday’s release came the day after an Egyptian court overturned the ship’s seizure following the Suez Canal Authority’s notification that it had reached an agreement with the ship’s owners and insurers.
Officials did not disclose details on the terms of the deal. At first, the Suez Canal Authority had asked for $ 916 million in compensation, then lowered to $ 550 million. In addition to the money, local reports said the channel will also receive a tugboat.
The money, according to the canal authorities, would cover the rescue operation, traffic costs of the stalled canal and lost transit fees for the six days Ever Given blocked the crucial waterway.
The Panamanian-flagged ship was on its way to the Dutch port of Rotterdam on 23 March when it crashed into the bank of a single-lane stretch of the canal approximately 6 kilometers (3.7 mi) north of the southern entrance, near to the city of Suez.
Its bow had touched the canal’s east wall, while its stern seemed wedged against the west wall – an extraordinary event that experts said they had never heard of in the canal’s 150-year history.
A massive rescue effort by a flotilla of tidal-aided tugs freed the skyscraper-sized ship six days later, ending the crisis and allowing hundreds of waiting ships to pass through the canal.
The blockade of the Suez Canal forced some ships of the time to take the long alternative route around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa, requiring additional fuel and other costs. Hundreds of other ships waited on the spot for the end of the blockade.
The closure, which raised concerns about supply shortages and rising costs for consumers, added strain to the shipping industry, already under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.