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Egypt: Suez Canal traffic blockage compensation talks at a standstill

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Compensation talks with the owner of Ever Given -- the over 200,000-tonne capacity container ship that ran aground on March 23 -- blocking Egypt’s Suez Canal’s roughly 12 and 15 million USD per day traffic for just under a week, are "at a standstill."

As such, the vessel continues in detention -- with a complaint by the owner to release it rejected last week by an Egyptian court.

Chairman of Suez Canal Authority Osama Rabie explains the current state of affairs. 

"In regards to the legal situation, the ship (Ever Given) is now detained in the lakes area of the canal under a judicial order, which was announced last Saturday in the court.

"Therefore the ship is now a property of the judicial body, which will give orders to the crew, so we now cannot do anything without the permission of the court."

According to the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), Egypt lost between $12 million (€9.8 million) and $15 million per day of closure. Initially, Cairo had demanded $916 million, before lowering the amount to $600 and then $550 million.

"I still hope to reach a compromise, but the value of the compensation must be adequate," added the official, interviewed at the SCA headquarters in Ismailia (east).

The admiral explains that the demanded sum represents "the losses and damages" suffered during the salvage operation -- worked on round the clock by 600 employees.

One employee even apparently lost their life as per an announcement by authorities last week -- as Ever Given had failed to report that "flammable materials were on board", endangering the rescuers, according to the admiral.

Machinery and boats are also now out of order" and the insulating coating on the banks was damaged.

Osama Rabie elaborates on the monetary situation.

"The negotiations with the owners are ongoing but with no success yet. We reduced our compensation demand by 40%, from 916 to 600 then to 550 million US dollars.

"And we offered some facilities to the owner by accepting to be paid part of the amount in cash and the rest as a bank guarantee, but they only offered 150 million US dollars, which is a very small amount compared to what the (Canal) authority paid."

A first hearing on compensation will take place before a local economic court on Saturday. Rabie, for now, is not keen on any international arbitration.

Today, 22 Indian crew members are on board the container ship, as well as "all the cargo", according to Mr Rabie.

If an agreement is reached, the ship "will be able to leave immediately", the admiral said.

A total of 422 ships, loaded with 26 million tonnes of goods, were blocked in March. However, "dollar revenues in April were 15% higher than in 2020", he added.

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