After 3-month seizure, Egypt releases ship that blocked Suez Canal

Suez Canal Authority reaches settlement in financial dispute with Japanese owner of Ever Given, allowing massive vessel to set sail this week

The Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship, is pulled by one of the Suez Canal tugboats, in the Suez Canal, Egypt, on March 29, 2021. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)
The Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship, is pulled by one of the Suez Canal tugboats, in the Suez Canal, Egypt, on March 29, 2021. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — An Egyptian court on Tuesday lifted a three-month-long judicial seizure of a hulking shipping vessel that had blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week earlier this year, paving the way for it to leave Egypt.

Following the decision by the court in the city of Ismailia, the Ever Given will be allowed to leave the canal on Wednesday, after a ceremony in the canal city.

Earlier, the Suez Canal Authority notified the court that it reached a settlement in its financial dispute with Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the Japanese owner of the Ever Given, a judicial official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The vessel ran aground in March, blocking the crucial waterway for six days. It has been held in Egypt ever since, amid a dispute over financial compensation.

The Suez Canal Authority did not reveal details on the terms of the settlement. At first, the Suez Canal Authority had demanded $916 million in compensation, which was later lowered to $550 million. In addition to the money, local reports said the canal would also receive a tugboat.

The money would cover the salvage operation, costs of stalled canal traffic, and lost transit fees for the week the Ever Given had blocked the canal.

FILE: The cargo ship MV Ever Given sits stuck in the Suez Canal near Suez, Egypt. The sleepy farming village of Amer overlooks the Suez Canal, one of the world’s most important waterways, on March 28, 2021.(Planet Labs Inc. via AP, File)

The Ever Given was on its way to the Dutch port of Rotterdam on March 23, when it slammed into the bank of a single-lane stretch of the canal about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) north of the southern entrance, near the city of Suez.

A massive salvage effort by a flotilla of tugboats helped by the tides freed the skyscraper-sized, Panama-flagged Ever Given six days later, ending the crisis and allowing hundreds of waiting ships to pass through the canal.

The vessel has since been held in the canal’s Great Bitter Lake while the canal and the vessel’s owners negotiated a settlement.

The blockage of the canal forced some ships to take the long alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip, requiring additional fuel and other costs. Hundreds of other ships waited in place for the blockage to end.

The shutdown, which raised worries of supply shortages and rising costs for consumers, added strain on the shipping industry, already under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.

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