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Suez Canal-blocking ship owners reach 'agreement in principle' with Egypt

Ever Given's insurance company says the cargo ship, and its crew, will be released once the agreement is finalised
The 400-metre Ever Given grabbed international headlines on 23 March after it was jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal.
The 400-metre long Ever Given grabbed international headlines on 23 March after it was jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal (AFP)

The owner of the container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for six days earlier this year has reached an agreement in principle with the Egyptian government that will lead to the vessel's release.

The UK P&I Club, Ever Given's insurance company, said in a statement on Wednesday that the cargo ship would be released once the agreement was finalised. The deal still needs to be signed by the ship's owners and its other insurers.

"The UK Club is pleased to announce that, following extensive discussions with the Suez Canal Authority’s negotiating committee over the past few weeks, an agreement in principle between the parties has been reached," the insurance company said.

"Together with the owner and the ship's other insurers we are now working with the SCA to finalise a signed settlement agreement as soon as possible.

Suez Canal: What you need to know about Ever Given, the ship that blocked the passage
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"Once the formalities have been dealt with, arrangements for the release of the vessel will be made."

The British company did not state what the monetary terms of the settlement were. The SCA had initially demanded $900m in compensation before lowering their demand to $550m.

The 400-metre long Ever Given grabbed international headlines on 23 March after it was jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal in high winds, halting traffic on the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.

About 15 percent of world shipping traffic transits the Suez Canal, which is an important source of foreign currency revenue for Egypt. 

The mammoth vessel was eventually freed on 29 March, with the SCA claiming that it had lost between $12m and $15m in fees per day of the closure.

In addition, the blockage held up an estimated $9.6bn worth of cargo each day, according to maritime data company Lloyd's List.

Egyptian authorities seized the Ever Given in April on court orders, pending agreement with the ship's owners over paying for damages incurred during the blockage. Since being freed from its blockage, the ship and its crew have been held in the Great Bitter Lake, a large salt water lake off the canal, waiting for the terms of compensation to be settled.