Egypt seizes container vessel that blocked the Suez Canal

Crew still stranded aboard as ship now at the centre of €750 million compensation claim

Egypt has seized the giant container vessel that blocked the Suez Canal last month as part of an effort to get more than€750 million in compensation.

A court in the city of Ismailia granted a seizure request regarding the Ever Given vessel at the behest of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA).

Egypt’s move underscores the legal complications following the container vessel’s grounding on March 23rd, which closed the canal for six days and heavily disrupted shipping markets.

Logjams are expected to continue in the coming weeks at major ports such as Singapore and Rotterdam because of the disruptions to schedules, according to supply-chain data provider Project44.

The 25 Indian crew members remain on board the ship, which is in the Great Bitter Lake, about halfway along the canal.

The SCA’s chief executive officer, Osama Rabie, told an Egyptian TV channel that negotiations with the ship’s owner - Japan-based Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd - and insurers were taking longer than expected.

The ship’s insurer for third-party losses, the U.K. P&I Club, said in a statement that the owner received a claim for $916 million (€766 million).

“Despite the magnitude of the claim, which was largely unsupported, the owners and their insurers have been negotiating in good faith with the SCA,” the statement on Tuesday said. “On 12 April, a carefully considered and generous offer was made to the SCA to settle their claim. We are disappointed by the SCA’s subsequent decision to arrest the vessel today.”

The U.K. P&I Club also said it was “disappointed at comments by the SCA that the ship will be held in Egypt until compensation is paid, and that her crew will be unable to leave the vessel during this time.”

The manager of the ship, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, said it was “extremely disappointed” with the arrest of the ship.

“BSM’s primary goal is a swift resolution to this matter that will allow the vessel and crew to depart the Suez Canal,” CEO Ian Beveridge said in a statement.

The SCA has said compensation is needed to cover losses of transit fees, damage to the waterway during the dredging and salvage efforts, and the cost of equipment and labour. It has calculated that it missed out on about €12.5 million of transit fees each day.

The U.K. P&I Club said the claim included a €251 million salvage bonus and another €251 million for loss of reputation.

Negotiations will continue, it said.

- Bloomberg