CAIRO: The Ismailia Economic Court in Egypt has ruled that the container ship that blocked the Suez Canal in March could continue to be held in the waterway, rejecting an appeal by its Japanese owner against its detention.
The Ever Given, one of the world’s largest container ships, became jammed across the canal on March 23 and remained stuck for six days, stopping traffic in both directions.
It has been held in a lake between two stretches of the canal since being dislodged on March 29, amid a dispute over a $916 million claim by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) against Japanese owner Shoei Kisen for compensation over the incident.
The SCA has been conducting investigations into the cause of the ship’s grounding but has yet to announce the results, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
The court, which had approved the detention of the ship following the submission of a report by the SCA, upheld that decision on Tuesday, rejecting an appeal made late last month.
The reasoning for the ruling was not immediately clear, but the SCA argued that the plaintiff had not notified all the required parties of its challenge to the ship’s detention within the required time limit.
The court heard the defense of Hazem Barakat, representative of the Japanese owner of the Panamanian ship, who demanded that a copy of the seizure order be provided. He said the captain of the ship has not been notified of the seizure decision.
Barakat demanded a 24-hour period to review and respond to all documents submitted by the SCA and argued that the ship’s seizure is invalid.
The SCA attorney said that an appeal should have been made during the specified dates, but the plaintiff failed to comply with that.
He added that the company’s lawyer should have informed all parties about its demands instead of procrastinating and requesting additional time, even though the company’s shipping agent is present on the ship daily.
The SCA is discussing ways to reach an amicable solution, especially because the ship is intact, loaded with containers and ready to sail, said Osama Rabie, chief of the SCA.
He said that the initial compensation for the accident was estimated at $1 billion and that the amount could change depending on the result of the probe.
He also added that the ship’s black box is being checked to reveal the circumstances of the accident.
The ship’s protection and indemnity insurer, UK Club, said the owners were reviewing their options in light of the decision and had until May 20 to appeal, according to the AP.
UK Club and the Ever Given’s technical manager, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, have expressed disappointment at the ship's detention.
UK Club said last month the appeal was made “on several grounds, including the validity of the arrest obtained in respect of the cargo and the lack of supporting evidence for the SCA’s very significant claim.”