ISMAILIA, Egypt – The Suez Canal chief said on Tuesday that authorities are negotiating a financial settlement with the owners of a massive vessel that blocked the crucial waterway for nearly a week.
Lieutenant General Osama Rabie told The Associated Press that he hoped talks with Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the Japanese owner of the Ever Given skyscraper format, will be concluded without lawsuit.
"We are discussing a peaceful solution to the issue with them without recourse to the judiciary," he said. He claimed that taking the case to court would be more harmful to the company than settling with the channel's leadership.
The channel chief said last week that the Suez Canal Authority was expecting more than $ 1 billion in compensation, warning that the ship would not be allowed to leave the channel if the matter of damage turns into a legal dispute. That amount takes into account the salvage operation, cost of stalled traffic, and foregone transit fees for the week the Ever Given blocked the channel. He did not then specify who would be responsible for paying the compensation.
The huge freighter is currently in one of the canal's watch lakes, where authorities and ship managers say an investigation is underway.
Rabie also said investigators on Tuesday analyzed data from the voyage data recorder, also known as a ship's black box, but no conclusion has yet been drawn as to why the Ever Given ran aground.
He declined to discuss possible causes, including the ship's speed and the high winds that plagued it during a sandstorm, saying he could not comment on an ongoing investigation. Initial reports suggested that the ship had "blacked out", something the ship's technical manager denied.
Last week, salvage teams liberated the Ever Given, ending a crisis that had clogged one of the world's most vital waterways and shut down billions of dollars a day in maritime trade.
"We have accomplished one of the world's largest salvage operations under difficult and complicated conditions … in just six days," said Rabie.
The Panamanian-flagged ship transporting cargo between Asia and Europe ran aground on March 23 in the narrow, man-made channel that separates continental Africa from the Asian Sinai Peninsula.
The bow hit the east wall, while the stern appeared to be against the west wall – an extraordinary event that experts said they had never heard of in the canal's 150-year history.
“The case we had was complicated and non-traditional, so there should have been a non-traditional solution,” said Rabie.
He said they relied on dredgers to get sand from beneath the colossal ship. Then a fleet of tugs, aided by the tides, tore Ever Given's bulbous bow from the sandy bank of the canal, where it was firmly tied.
Rabie said it was a difficult decision to deploy dredgers as it was the first time that the authorities had used such machines in rescue operations in the channel. But it turned out to be fruitful, he said.
The unprecedented six-day shutdown, which increased fears of lengthy delays, shortages of goods and rising costs for consumers, put additional pressure on the shipping industry already under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.
The canal authority said it had resolved a maritime traffic jam that had grown to more than 420 ships waiting at both ends of the Suez Canal and in the Great Bitter Lake and the canal was back to normal average.
Photo: This March 30, 2021 file photo shows the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship, in Egypt's Great Bitter Lake. The Suez Canal chief said on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 that authorities are negotiating a financial settlement with the owners of the massive vessel that blocked the crucial waterway for nearly a week. Photo credit: AP Photo / Mohamed Elshahed.
Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Interested in Lawsuits
Receive automatic alerts on this topic.