Ever Given Departs Suez Canal
The container ship Ever Given has finally sailed from her anchorage in the Suez Canal's Great Bitter Lake, ending a months-long period of detention imposed by Egyptian authorities after her grounding in the canal's southern section.
Last month, shipowner Shoei Kisen Kaisha and insurer UK P&I Club reached a settlement agreement with the Suez Canal Authority, buying the vessel's freedom. After the grounding in March, the SCA had obtained a court order allowing it to hold Ever Given and her cargo until Shoei Kisen paid for the effects of the six-day canal shutdown. SCA's initial demand totaled $916 million, including $300 million for "reputational damage," but it lowered its asking price to $550 million after several rounds of negotiation. The final settlement amount was not disclosed.
"A deal that achieved justice and prioritized both parties' interests has been reached," said Lt. Gen. Ossama Rabei, the head of the SCA, speaking at a formal signing ceremony for the deal.
After the ceremony, Ever Given transited to the Port Said anchorage, where she will undergo a dive survey before heading on to Rotterdam to discharge her long-delayed cargo.
During the vessel's 100-plus days in detention, her crewmembers were well cared for and crew changes were permitted, according to the International Transport Workers' Federation. However, ITF cautioned that port states (including Egypt) still have a long way to go when it comes to seafarers' rights.
"This has been a very stressful time for the crew and their families who have had to suffer the uncertainty of whether their loved ones would become [criminalized] as human pawns in a wider game being played over compensation," said Abdulgani Y Serang, the general secretary of ITF-affiliated National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI). "Society needs to reflect on how so much attention was placed on the commercial aspects of this incident – on the possible impacts on prices and supply of consumer goods – and so little attention paid to the sacrifice, pain and uncertainty faced by the seafarers whose welfare ought to be at the center of the Ever Given story."
ITF also pointed to the need to reform a unique Egyptian practice: the appointment of a "legal guard" when a vessel is abandoned. This procedure binds one crewmember to a defunct ship for months or years, with no relief. ITF recently secured the freedom of two officers who had been stranded indefinitely by "legal guard" proceedings, including one mariner who had been stuck on the same derelict vessel for four years.
"Port states like Egypt have a moral duty to help abandoned crew get home. Egypt has an opportunity now to reform its legal guardianship system – and we hope that they take up this opportunity,” said Mohamed Arrachedi, ITF's Middle East network coordinator.