Egypt is expecting more than US$1 billion in compensation after a cargo ship blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week, the top canal official said, adding that the ship and its cargo would not be allowed leave Egypt if the issue of damages goes to court.
Suez Canal Authority Chairman Lieutenant General Ossama Rabei said in a telephone interview on Wednesday with a pro-government TV talk show that the amount takes into account the salvage operation, costs of stalled traffic, and lost transit fees for the week that the Ever Given had blocked the Suez Canal.
“It’s the country’s right,” Rabei said, without specifying who would be responsible for paying the compensation.
He added that in the past, canal authorities and the ship’s owners have had a good relationship.
The massive cargo ship is currently in one of the canal’s holding lakes, where authorities and the ship’s managers say an investigation is ongoing.
On Thursday, the ship’s technical managers, Bernard Schulte Shipmanagement Pte, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the ship’s crew was cooperating with authorities in their investigation into what led to the vessel running aground.
They said that Suez Canal Authority investigators have been given access to the voyage data recorder, also known as a vessel’s black box.
Rabie said that if an investigation went smoothly and the compensation amount was agreed on, then the ship could travel on without problems.
However, if the issue of compensation involved litigation, then the Ever Given and its estimated US$3.5 billion cargo would not be allowed to leave Egypt, he told the show’s host.
Litigation could be complex, since the ship is owned by a Japanese firm, operated by a Taiwanese shipper and flagged in Panama.
Bernhard Schulte has previously said that two Egyptian canal pilots were aboard when the ship got stuck. Such an arrangement is customary to guide vessels through the narrow waterway, but the ship’s captain retains ultimate authority, experts said.
On Monday, a flotilla of tugboats helped by the tides wrenched the Ever Given’s bulbous bow from the canal’s sandy bank, where it had been firmly lodged.
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