A man waves an Egyptian flag as ship Ever Given, one of the world's largest container ships, is fully floated in the Suez Canal in Egypt. Picture: HANDOUT VIA REUTERS /SUEZ CANAL AUTHORITY
A man waves an Egyptian flag as ship Ever Given, one of the world's largest container ships, is fully floated in the Suez Canal in Egypt. Picture: HANDOUT VIA REUTERS /SUEZ CANAL AUTHORITY

Cairo/London — Egypt has seized the giant container vessel that blocked the Suez Canal in March as part of an effort to get more than $900m in compensation.

A court in the city of Ismailia granted a seizure request regarding the Ever Given vessel at the behest of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA).

Egypt’s move underscores the legal complications after the container vessel’s grounding on March 23, which closed the canal for six days and roiled shipping markets. Logjams are expected to continue in the coming weeks at major ports such as Singapore and Rotterdam because of disruptions to schedules, according to supply-chain data provider project44.

The 25 Indian crew members remain on board the ship, which is in the Great Bitter Lake, about halfway along the canal.

The SCA’s CEO, Osama Rabie, told an Egyptian TV channel that negotiations with the ship’s owner — Japan-based Shoei Kisen Kaisha — and insurers are taking longer than expected.

The ship’s insurer for third-party losses, the UK P&I Club, said in a statement that the owner received a claim for $916m.

“Despite the magnitude of the claim, which was largely unsupported, the owners and their insurers have been negotiating in good faith with the SCA,” the statement read. “On April 12, a carefully considered and generous offer was made to the SCA to settle their claim. We are disappointed by the SCA’s subsequent decision to arrest the vessel today.”

The UK P&I Club also said it is “disappointed at comments by the SCA that the ship will be held in Egypt until compensation is paid, and that its crew will be unable to leave the vessel during this time”.

The manager of the ship, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), said it is “extremely disappointed” with the arrest of the ship. “BSM’s primary goal is a swift resolution to this matter that will allow the vessel and crew to depart the Suez Canal,” CEO Ian Beveridge said in a statement.

The SCA has said compensation is needed to cover losses of transit fees, damage to the waterway during the dredging and salvage efforts, and the cost of equipment and labour. It has calculated that it missed out on about $15m of transit fees each day.

The UK P&I Club said the claim includes a $300m salvage bonus and another $300m for loss of reputation.

Fit to Sail

The SCA didn’t include the salvager’s claim for its services, “which owners and their hull underwriters expect to receive separately”, the UK P&I Club said. “The grounding resulted in no pollution and no reported injuries.”

Negotiations will continue, it said.

Rabie, speaking to Egypt’s Mehwar TV channel late on Tuesday, said the owners and insurers “didn’t say when or what they’ll pay” and hadn’t mentioned specific figures. He said seizing the Ever Given is a legal procedure and that the order will be lifted as soon as there’s payment.

The American Bureau of Shipping has declared the Ever Given fit to sail after inspections, according to BSM. The plan is to move it to Port Said at the north end of the canal then to Rotterdam, BSM said.

A spokesperson for Shoei Kisen Kaisha declined to comment on compensation while discussions with the SCA are under way.

The charterer, Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine, said in a statement on Wednesday that it’s investigating the scope of the court order and studying the possibility of the vessel and cargo being treated separately.

Bloomberg 

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