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Suez Canal Authority says Egypt’s position strong in ‘Ever Given’ dispute

The Suez Canal Authority said negotiations were progressing for compensation from the owner of a container ship that blocked the waterway for days.

But the final say on the matter will rest with the Egyptian judiciary, the authority’s chief said on Sunday.

Egypt’s position in the case is strong, chairman Admiral Osama Rabie said in Ismailia, the city on the canal in which a court is hearing the dispute.

“Even if the ship’s owner resorts to an international maritime body, the final say in the matter belongs to the Egyptian judiciary, this is what maritime law dictates,” Admiral Rabie said.

The Panama-flagged Ever Given is detained in the Great Bitter Lake halfway along the waterway, which links the Red Sea to the Mediterranean.

The authority said the vessel would be released when it received $550 million in compensation for losses incurred during the block and for damage to the waterway during attempts to refloat the ship.

One of the key points in the dispute with ship’s owner, Japanese company Shoei Kisen Kaisha, is whether the work to free the ship was a rescue or refloating, a technicality that would determine who is to blame for the blockage.

The authority, which says it carried out a rescue operation, on Sunday quoted a 1989 International Rescue Committee law, and a 1990 maritime law.

They state that if a port authority rescues a ship from running aground and it comes out unscathed, the ship’s owner must pay a fee to be determined by the judiciary of the port’s country.

Canal authority officials also repeated their claim that the ship captain’s misjudgments led to it running aground.

These include the decision to speed up against the advice of the pilot provided by the authority, and steer towards the side of the canal, said Capt Mohamed El Sayed, head of navigation control at the authority.

Shoei Kisen Kaisha’s legal team maintains that because authority’s staff approved the ship’s entry into the canal during bad weather, the losses are its responsibility.

The authority has refused to share voice recordings from the ship’s black box amid claims that there were heated disagreements between the captain and the canal pilot.

“We have an ethical responsibility to not reveal the minute details of the conversations, but rest assured, Egypt’s position is strong,” Admiral Rabie said on Sunday.

On Saturday, the court upheld the ship’s detention and adjourned the case until June 20 to allow negotiations to continue.

The authority initially sought $916m to cover the loss of transit fees, damage to the waterway during the dredging and salvaging, and the cost of equipment and labour.

It later reduced its claim to $550m, with $200m in cash and the rest to be paid separately.

The reduced claim was rejected by the ship’s owner, the legal team of which is appealing against the detention order.

The authority revealed last week that an employee lost his life during rescue effort.

On Sunday, it said several other crew members were injured in the operation but have since recovered.

Authority officials praised the rescue operation as a landmark in the waterway’s 150-year history.

“What usually happens according to international maritime law in these rescue efforts is that the ship is cleared of its cargo to lighten the load, which for a ship of this size would have taken three months to complete,” said Capt Sayed ٍSha’isha, head of the its investigation committee.

“We didn’t have the time or the resources to do it this way and world trade would not have been able to handle the canal being closed for that long.

“So, we innovated and succeeded in getting the ship out in just six days.”
Source: The National News

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