Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority (SCA) has been showing “full flexibility” in compensation negotiations with the owner of the giant Ever Given vessel that blocked traffic in the strategic canal for six days in March and disrupted global trade, the authority’s chairman said on Monday.
Osama Rabie, chairman of the SCA, told a delegation from the Indian Embassy in Egypt that the authority has spared no effort from its side to ensure the success of the talks, which continue despite an ongoing legal dispute between the SCA and the mega-ship’s Japanese owner Shoei Kisen over the impounding of the vessel by the authority.
The visit by the diplomatic delegation aims to follow up on the conditions of the Indian crew members currently on board the impounded 400-meter ship in Ismailia.
They were allowed on board the ship to check on the crew members, a statement by the SCA said, stressing the importance of providing for the needs of the crew and understanding related humanitarian aspects.
Such an understanding has been demonstrated by allowing some of the crew members to return to India due to personal reasons in the past weeks, Rabie said.
Monday’s meeting comes one day after the SCA’s commissioner-general of the investigation said a probe into the grounding of the Panamanian container ship put blame on the ship’s captain after an error in steering the vessel.
A lawyer representing the ship's Japanese owner Shoei Kisen argued the SCA had been at fault for allowing the ship to enter the waterway amid bad weather, adding that the authority "failed to prove any fault by the ship.”
The exchange of blame over the crisis, which crippled the global supply chain in March for nearly a week, comes amid continuing legal dispute over the ship.
On Saturday, a trial over the Ever Given was adjourned to 20 June to allow for further negotiations on the compensation value.
The Ismailia Economic Court postponed the hearing upon the requests made by the lawyers representing the SCA and the ship owner.
The lawyers said the postponement is meant to provide more time to reach an amicable solution to the ship crisis.
The hearing came days after the SCA slashed its compensation claim of $916 million to $550 million to settle the current judicial dispute, with the mega-ship to be allowed to leave if nearly 40 percent of the sum is paid in cash.
The Ever Given’s insurers say the demanded sum is still too high, previously offering to pay $150 million in compensation for the six-day traffic halt.
The ship ran aground across the canal on 23 March and was refloated on 29 March by a fleet of Egyptian tugboats and diggers, with the assistance of the tide.
The vessel has since been anchored in a lake between two sections of the canal.