Megatanker that blocked Suez Canal to be released

·2 min read

The megatanker retained by Egypt since it blocked the Suez Canal in March will be released Wednesday, after the authority that manages the vital waterway said a deal was reached with its Japanese owners.

The MV Ever Given -- a behemoth with deadweight tonnage of 199,000 -- got stuck diagonally across the canal during a sandstorm on March 23, blocking the trade artery for six days before salvage teams could dislodge it.

Egypt retained the vessel seeking compensation from Japanese firm Shoei Kisen Kaisha for lost canal revenues and the cost of salvaging it and for damage to the shipping lane that links Asia and Europe.

The Suez Canal Authority said in a statement that a ceremony would be held on Wednesday to mark the signing of an agreement with the owners and "the departure of the ship".

The statement that was issued on Sunday did not disclose the amount of compensation.

Egypt lost between $12 million and $15 million in revenues for each day the waterway was closed, according to the Suez Canal Authority.

The grounding of the ship and the intensive salvage efforts needed to refloat it also resulted in significant damage to the canal.

A member of the London-based Stann Marine law firm which represents the owners and insurers of the Ever Given confirmed in a statement that preparations were underway for its release.

"We are pleased to announce that... good progress has been made and a formal solution agreed" between the two sides, Faz Peermohamed said in the statement.

- Non-disclosure agreement -

Last week, Suez Canal Authority chief Osama Rabie said Egypt had signed a non-disclosure agreement with the owners of the Ever Given as it finalised the compensation agreement.

Initially, Egypt had sought hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation but it later slashed its initial claim of $900 million to $550 million.

The Taiwanese-operated and Panama-flagged ship was moved to unobstructive anchorage in the Suez Canal after it was freed on March 29, and tailbacks totalling 420 vessels at the northern and southern entrances to the canal were cleared in early April.

In April, maritime data company Lloyd's List said the blockage by the vessel, longer than four football fields, held up an estimated $9.6 billion-worth of cargo between Asia and Europe each day it was stuck.

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has ruled out any widening of the southern stretch of the canal where the boat became diagonally stuck.

Sisi oversaw an expansion of a northern section, which included widening an existing stretch and introducing a 35-kilometre (21-mile) parallel waterway, to much fanfare in 2014-15.

But that was achieved at a cost of over $8 billion, without significantly increasing revenues from the canal.

The Suez Canal earned Egypt just over $5.7 billion in the 2019/20 fiscal year, according to official figures -- little changed from the $5.3 billion earned back in 2014.