Egypt Court Rejects Appeal to Free Ship That Blocked Suez

An Egyptian court rejected an appeal by the owner of a giant container ship that blocked the Suez Canal to allow it to leave the country, as a legal dispute over compensation continues.

Sunday’s ruling marked the second time Japan’s Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd. lost a bid to have a seizure order lifted. The Suez Canal Authority is claiming more than more than $900 million in damages linked to the vital waterway’s six-day closure in March, which roiled shipping markets.

The appeals court in the town of Ismailia also referred the SCA’s lawsuit by the against the Ever Given’s owner back to a lower trial court at the same venue. The next hearing was set for May 29.

Frantic Operation

The SCA’s lawsuit asked for $916 million in compensation. The operator lowered the figure in out-of-court negotiations to $550 million, which the ship’s insurers say is still too high.

The Ever Given’s owner has offered to pay $150 million, according to the SCA, which says that doesn’t cover losses of transit fees, damage to the waterway during the dredging and rescue efforts, and costs of equipment and labor.

The 400-meter-long Ever Given was freed on March 29 after a frantic salvage operation and sailed to the Great Bitter Lake, about halfway along the canal, where it has been kept ever since.

The SCA estimates the goods aboard the ship have a value of $775 million, Chairman Osama Rabie told Sada El Balad, a local television channel, on Sunday night.

About 50 ships a day pass through the canal, which can cut a voyage between Europe and Asia by two weeks. More than 400 vessels were held up by the blockage, though most were able to pass through the channel soon after it was reopened. This month Egypt started dredging to widen the southern end, where the Ever Given got stuck.

On Saturday, lawyers for the Ever Given’s owner argued that a transcript of the black box from the ship showed that the captain was given conflicting messages from SCA staff on March 23, the day of the grounding. Two SCA employees argued about whether or not the Ever Given should enter the canal due to higher-than-normal winds, according to the lawyers.

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