ISMAILIA, Egypt (AP) — Suez Canal authorities announced Wednesday the release of a hulking shipping vessel that blocked the crucial east-west waterway for nearly a week earlier this year.
The Ever Given is leaving the Suez Canal after its Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., reached a settlement with the canal authorities over a compensation amount after more than three months of negotiations and a court standoff.
The settlement deal was signed in a ceremony Wednesday in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, after which the vessel was seen sailing to the Mediterranean.
Wednesday’s release came a day after an Egyptian court lifted the judicial seizure of the vessel following the Suez Canal Authority’s notification that that it reached a settlement in its financial dispute with the vessels’ owners and insurers.
The vessel ran aground in March, blocking the crucial waterway for six days. It has been since held amid a dispute over financial compensation.
The money, according to canal authorities, would cover the salvage operation, costs of stalled canal traffic, and lost transit fees for the week the Ever Given had blocked the canal.
The Ever Given was on its way to the Dutch port of Rotterdam on March 23 when it slammed into the bank of a single-lane stretch of the canal about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) north of the southern entrance, near the city of Suez.
A massive salvage effort by a flotilla of tugboats helped by the tides freed the skyscraper-sized, Panama-flagged Ever Given six days later, ending the crisis, and allowing hundreds of waiting ships to pass through the canal.
The vessel had since been held in the canal’s Great Bitter Lake while the canal and the vessel’s owners negotiated a settlement.
The blockage of the canal forced some ships to take the long alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip, requiring additional fuel and other costs. Hundreds of other ships waited in place for the blockage to end.
The shutdown, which raised worries of supply shortages and rising costs for consumers, added strain on the shipping industry, already under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.