An Egyptian court on Sunday postponed a hearing in the case filed by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) against the owners of Ever Given vessel, which blocked the waterway for six days in March, for further negotiations to “amicably” settle the dispute.
The Ismailiya Economic Court postponed the hearing to 4 July upon a request made by Khaled Abou Baker, the lawyer representing the SCA, in order to continue negotiations with the shipowner over the compensation value.
Abou Baker said the adjournment request was submitted as both sides “reached an agreement on some points during the negotiations,” hinting that offers that may meet the SCA's demands have been received.
The Ever Given, one of the world’s largest container ships, ran aground diagonally across the canal on March 23, halting traffic in both directions for nearly a week. The ship was refloated on 29 March by a fleet of Egyptian tugboats and diggers.
The vessel has since been idle in a lake between two sections of the canal at a court order until an initial $916 million compensation claimed by the SCA is paid.
The SCA, however, had offered to slash its compensation claim 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.
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, with an exchange of blame over which party was at fault over the crisis.
On Thursday, UK Club, an insurer for the giant ship said it is currently engaged in “serious and constructive negotiations” with the SCA regarding its compensation claim.
Last month, the Suez Canal Authority rejected claims by UK Club that the speed of the Ever Given was controlled by the canal’s operator before it ran aground in the canal.
The SCA said that exceeding set speeds at the country’s strategic canal is the sole responsibility of the ship’s captain.
The ship insurer’s statement came in response to statements by SCA officials that the ship was sailing too fast and that the error was entirely the responsibility of the Ever Given's captain and not that of the canal’s operator, whose opinion is non-binding.