One incredible thing about the stuck-boat saga, at least to my mind, is that it simply refuses to end. I mean, even two weeks after the moon freed the Ever Given from her inconvenient position — lodged diagonally across the Suez Canal, blocking traffic in both directions for six days and threatening to bring global commerce to its knees — she has managed to maintain her place in the news cycle, and also in Egypt more generally. Apparently, the Suez Canal Authority has declined to release the Ever Given to its owners, an impulse I can understand. She’s a very charismatic ship, after all! But the official reasoning may have less to do with the allure of the Ever Given herself, and more to do with finances. According to The Wall Street Journal, Egypt plans to hold the vessel pending reimbursement for all the work to free her, plus lost transit fees.
“The vessel will remain here until investigations are complete and compensation is paid,” Canal Authority chairman Osama Rabie reportedly told state media on Thursday. He added that they “hope for a speedy agreement,” and promised that “the minute they agree to compensation, the vessel will be allowed to move.”
Just how much money are we talking here? According to the Journal, Rabie didn’t name a number in that announcement, but the week before, he’d tallied the tab at $1 billion. That sum would potentially cover the cost of all the labor and the dredging and the tug-boating and possibly also the crafting of sizzle reels (?), plus lost income from tolls on container ships navigating the canal, along with other assorted expenses. The Ever Given calamity reportedly blocked hundreds of vessels from using the shipping corridor, amounting to as much as $95 million in missed transit fees, per the Journal.
But Ryu Murakoshi — a spokesperson for Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the Japanese company that owns the Ever Given — said that, while “it is true we are in the middle of negotiations with them,” the Canal Authority hadn’t provided a formal quote. On April 1, Shoei Kisen Kaisha filed a case for limited liability in London’s High Court, implicating Evergreen Marine Corp., which charters the ship and maintains that it “is free of responsibility from cargo delays” and that damages “will be covered by insurance.”
Anyway, if you were wondering where the Ever Given is in all of this, she’s … still in the Suez. “The ship, its cargo, and a 25-person crew of Indian sailors remain at anchor in Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake, a body of water that separates two sections of the canal,” the Journal notes. Earlier this month, the general secretary of the National Union of Seafarers of India told Insider that the crew is “safe” and still being paid. Unfortunately, though, unions fear the sailors may be trapped until a resolution is reached, which seems like it could take a while. Rest assured, we will continue to keep close tabs on this never-ending story as it unfolds.