The megaship which blocked the Suez Canal for six days in March set sail Wednesday following a compensation deal between Egypt and the vessel’s Japanese owner.
The ship, MV Ever Given, started to move north from the central canal city of Ismailia towards the Mediterranean Wednesday morning after having been impounded for more than 100 days.
The nearly 200,000-tonne container vessel was wedged in the canal during a sandstorm on March 23, blocking a passage from Asia to Europe that carries 10% of global maritime trade and pumps vital revenues into Egyptian state coffers.
Egypt seized the ship after an urgent salvage operation and demanded compensation from Japanese owners Shoei Kisen Kaisha for lost canal revenues, salvage costs and damage to the canal.
The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) announced Sunday that a final deal had been reached without disclosing the amount of compensation to be paid, but final negotiations proceeded from a figure of $550 million (£398 million).
The megaship blocked the Suez Canal for six days in March finally set sail again on Wednesday after having been impounded for more than 100 days
The ship was released following a compensation deal between Egypt and the vessel’s Japanese owner, the amount of which has not been disclosed
The nearly 200,000 tonne vessel became lodged in the canal during a sandstorm and created a tailback of 420 other ships and held almost $10 billion in cargo
The SCA announced last month that it had signed a non-disclosure agreement with the Japanese firm ahead of reaching a final deal.
SCA chairman Osama Rabie, in a televised interview on Sunday, hailed the deal.
‘We maintained our rights and we kept good relations with our clients,’ he said.
Cairo, which earns over $5 billion a year from the Suez, lost between $12 million and $15 million in revenues for each day the waterway was closed, according to the SCA.
The MV Ever Given’s grounding and the intensive salvage efforts needed to refloat it also resulted in significant damage to the canal.
In April, maritime data company Lloyd’s List said the blockage by the vessel, longer than four football fields, held up some $9.6 billion-worth of cargo each day it was stuck.
The Taiwanese-operated and Panama-flagged vessel was refloated on March 29, and tailbacks totalling 420 vessels at the northern and southern entrances to the canal were cleared in early April.
On Tuesday, the Ismailia Economic Court ruled the seized ship with its crew on board was being released following a request from the SCA.
Both parties signed a non-disclosure agreement ahead of reaching the final deal, but final negotiations had proceeded from a value of almost £400 million
The Ever Given was seen leaving the Suez Canal after its Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., reached a settlement with the canal authorities over a compensation amount after more than three months of negotiations and a court standoff
Wednesday’s release came a day after an Egyptian court lifted the judicial seizure of the vessel following the Suez Canal Authority’s notification that that it reached a settlement in its financial dispute with the vessels’ owners and insurers
The Panama-flagged vessel ran aground in March, blocking the crucial waterway for six days. It has been since held amid a dispute over financial compensation
According to tracking service MarineTraffic, the ship had been moored in the northern part of Great Bitter Lake.
Rabie said the MV Ever Given had suffered ‘no leakage’ and was leaving after a signing ceremony.
He said Egypt would also receive a 75-tonne tugboat from Shoei Kisen Kaisha as part of the compensation package, and noted that the family of one rescue worker who died during the salvage operation would also be compensated.
‘The Suez canal has always been a site of sacrifices since it was built,’ he said.
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.
Even with the grounding of the ship, Rabie said Sunday that canal revenues in the first half of the year had topped $3 billion.
But officials have been keen to avoid reputational damage from the incident, trumpeting Egyptian efforts in the salvage operation.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi swiftly pledged investment to avoid any repetition of the crisis, and in May approved a two-year project to widen and deepen the southern part of the waterway where the ship ran aground.
Sisi had overseen the $8 billion expansion of a northern section of the canal to much fanfare in 2014-15.