CAIRO – The huge container ship that disrupted global maritime traffic after blocking the Suez Canal for nearly a week in March was freed and set sail on Wednesday after spending months under seizure.
The 1,400-foot-long Ever Given, which carries cargo between Asia and Europe, ran aground and blocked the single-track section of the canal on March 23 before being refloated for six days later in a massive rescue operation.
A ceremony was held at the canal to mark the departure of the Panama-flagged vessel and a TV broadcast showed that the vessel was finally leaving after being stuck in a reservoir in the middle of the Suez Canal for months as authorities in the Canal and the shipowners were negotiating a compensation deal after the six-day lockdown wreaked havoc on international supply chains, crippling one of the world’s most crucial waterways.
Just days before the ship’s exit on Wednesday, it was announced that a deal had been reached, but no details were released.
“I give permission to Ever Given to navigate,” Suez Canal Authority chairman Osama Rabie said at the ceremony. He added that the Suez Canal will continue to serve ships of all sizes.
Khaled Abu Bakr, a lawyer for the SCA, said at the ceremony that the canal authorities were “committed to secrecy” about what had been agreed during negotiations with the shipowners.
A spokesperson for the ship’s Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., said in an emailed statement after the Ever Green left that the company would continue to use the canal for its fleet of ships and would remain a “loyal customer”. The company also thanked the crew who remained on the ship throughout the ordeal and acknowledged the delays for those whose cargo was stranded on board.
Compensation is likely to focus on the cost of the rescue operation, stopping traffic on the channel and the loss of transit charges for the week Ever Given blocked the channel.
As a first step, the SCA demanded $ 916 million in compensation, which was lowered to $ 550 million in May due to new information on the value of the ship’s cargo. At the time, SCA chief Rabie told Egyptian media that the shipowners offered $ 115 million in compensation.
Both parties publicly blamed the party controlling the speed of the vessel in the canal at the time of the incident, which party decided to enter the canal despite the high winds and the number of tugs present to escort the vessel.
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On Tuesday, a local court formally approved a request by the Suez Canal Authority to lift the seizure of the Ever Given and allow the ship to leave the canal and complete its voyage to the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Low.
About 12 percent of world trade passes through the Suez Canal, a narrow man-made canal that separates mainland Africa from the Asian Sinai Peninsula. The canal typically allows 50 freighters to pass daily between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, providing a vital trade corridor between Europe and Asia.
The blockade of Ever Given had crippled the world’s main trade route and garnered global attention as the world watched the dredgers work non-stop to dislodge the stranded ship, moving huge amounts of sand, experts initially fearing it could take weeks to completely release it.
Hundreds of ships had to wait for the canal to be unlocked, creating a maritime traffic jam visible from space, while some ships considered taking the much longer route around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. .
Charlene Gubash reported from Cairo, Yuliya Talmazan from London.
The Associated Press contributed.