Investigations into the grounding of a Panamanian container ship that blocked Egypt's Suez Canal in March proved there was an error in steering the vessel, a commissioner with the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said on Sunday.
The error was "entirely the responsibility of Ever Given's captain" and not of the SCA's mentors whose opinion "is non-binding", Captain El-Sayed Shuaisha, the authority's commissioner-general of the ship-focused investigations, told a press conference in Ismailia Governorate.
The ship had run aground across the canal on 23 March and was refloated on 29 March. It has since been anchored in a lake between two sections of the world's longest canal.
A week ago, 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".
However, Shuaisha dismissed at the presser the allegations as "incorrect". He noted that "three ships with the same tonnage have crossed the canal before Ever Given".
Captain Mohamed El-Sayed, head of SCA Navigation Control, said that the Egyptian position is very strong on the negotiation track.
On Saturday, the Ismailia Economic Court of first instance adjourned to June 20 the trial on the mega-ship, which has been be impounded over a dispute linked to a compensation claim made by the SCA over the losses it incurred due to the blockage of the waterway.
The case witnessed a new escalation on Saturday's hearing when the a lawyer representing the Marine Fishing Cooperative Association accused the ship of causing pollution to the canal waters and the death of fish, demanding compensation.
The lawyer of the association, which represents more than 4,000 fishing ships, said the ship has polluted the canal waters during the refloating attempts by discharging 27,000 tons of ballast water – which is responsible for maintaining the ship’s balance.
The lawyer said the association is stick to the right of the fishermen to be compensated over the pollution's negative effects, even if an amicable settlement is reached between the ship's owners and the SCA.
Saturday's 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.
Khaled Abu Bakr, advisor to the SCA head for the negotiation committee, said at Sunday's press conference that all negotiations between the authority and the owner "are confidential and we maintain them".