Egyptian authorities impound Suez Canal cargo vessel amid financial dispute

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By Euronews  with AP
The Panama-flagged MV Ever Given was extracted from the canal after a six-day salvage effort in March.
The Panama-flagged MV Ever Given was extracted from the canal after a six-day salvage effort in March.   -   Copyright  Suez Canal Authority via AP

Egyptian authorities have impounded a massive cargo vessel that blocked the Suez Canal last month amid a financial dispute with its owner

The Panama-flagged MV Ever Given will not be allowed to leave Egypt until a compensation amount is settled, the canal chief and a judicial official said Tuesday.

The vessel's Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd, has not commented on the claims.

"The vessel is now officially impounded," Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie told Egyptian television, "they do not want to pay anything.''

It is reported that the Egyptian canal authorities are demanding around $916 million (€763 million). This is said to include costs for the salvage operation, stalled canal traffic, and lost transit fees for the week that the Ever Given blocked the canal.

The 400m-long ship ran aground on March 23 in the narrow canal while carrying cargo from Asia to Europe, crashing into the bank about 6 kilometers north of the southern entrance, near the city of Suez.

Six days later, salvage teams managed to free the Ever Given, ending a crisis that had clogged one of the world's most vital waterways.

The unprecedented blockage had raised fears of extended delays, goods shortages, and rising costs for consumers, and also added to the strain on the shipping industry during the coronavirus pandemic.

The vessel has since idled in Egypt's Great Bitter Lake, just north of the canal. Possible causes of the blockage include the ship's speed and the high winds that buffeted it during a sandstorm.

Rabie said the conclusion of the authority's investigation was expected Thursday.

The order to impound the vessel was issued on Monday by a court in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, he added.

Egypt has also announced plans to widen and deepen the southern part of the Suez Canal where the Ever Given ran aground.

About 10% of world trade flows through the canal, with an estimated 19,000 vessels passing through the waterway last year.