Megaship that ran aground now caught in legal row between owners and Egyptian authorities reportedly seeking $900m
The Ever Given after it was fully floated in the Suez Canal on 29 March. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters
The Guardian-Staff and agencies in Cairo
Two weeks after it was freed from the Suez Canal, the giant container ship Ever Given is once again stuck.
This time however, the 220,000-ton megaship is not caught in the sand, but snared in a legal row between Egyptian authorities and the ship’s owners over the financial impact of the accident.
The massive ship has been impounded by a court in Ismailia, as the Suez Canal Authority pursues its Japanese owners for the cost of the salvage operation and lost transit fees for the week that the canal was blocked.
About 50 ships a day pass through the canal, and more than 442 vessels were held up by the blockage.
“The vessel is now officially impounded,” Lt Gen Osama Rabie told Egypt’s state-run television. “They do not want to pay anything.”
There was no immediate comment from the vessel’s owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd.
Rabie did not say how much money the canal authority was seeking, but the figure was reportedly $900m (£650m). Meanwhile, prosecutors in Ismailia also opened a separate investigation into what caused the Ever Given to run aground, a judicial official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief media.
Rabie said negotiations were still ongoing to reach a settlement on compensation.
Litigation could be complex, since the vessel is owned by a Japanese firm, operated by a Taiwanese shipper, and flagged in Panama.
The Ever Given ran aground in a single-lane stretch of the canal about 6 km (3.7 miles) north of the southern entrance, near the city of Suez on 23 March.
On 29 March, salvage teams freed the Ever Given, ending a crisis that had clogged one of the world’s most vital waterways and halted billions of dollars a day in maritime commerce. The vessel has since idled in Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake, just north of the site where it previously blocked the canal.
The unprecedented six-day shutdown, which raised fears of extended delays, goods shortages and rising costs for consumers, added to strain on the shipping industry already under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.
Rabie, the canal chief, told state-run television there was no wrongdoing by the canal authority. He declined to discuss possible causes, including the ship’s speed and the high winds that buffeted it during a sandstorm.
When asked whether the ship’s owner was at fault, he said: “Of course, yes.”
Rabie said the conclusion of the authority’s investigation was expected Thursday.