Suez Canal unclogged but Egypt may sue for damages. Here's what we know so far
The shipping backlog at Egypt's Suez Canal is supposed to be cleared by Saturday-end, news agency Reuters reported citing sources at the canal authority. The 'Ever Given' container, which kept the crucial maritime channel blocked for almost a week, was dislodged last Monday, paving the way for the queued ships to gradually make their way through.
Meanwhile, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) launched an investigation on Wednesday into what caused the 'Ever Given' vessel to run aground in the Suez Canal and block the waterway for six days. Osama Rabie, SCA chairman, told the MBC Masr private TV that the probe will take "two more days" and a report on the Suez Canal Authority's findings would be published soon, according to Reuters.
Egypt is expecting more than $1 billion in damages as compensation for blocking the crucial Suez Canal for more than a week, the Associated Press reported, citing a top canal official. Moreover, SCA has also warned that the ship and its cargo will not be allowed to leave Egypt if the issue of damages goes to court, as per the agency. However, it is not yet clear who the canal authorities would seek compensation from.
As many as 422 vessels were found to have been queued up behind the 400-metre-long 'Ever Given' container when it was dislodged earlier this week, according to Rabie. While authorities have been aiding the queued ships to pass through, it still took the rest of the week to clear the massive pile-up of vessels. On Friday, some 80 ships passed through the Suez Canal in both directions, including an American aircraft carrier—the USS Dwight D Eisenhower, a liquefied natural gas tanker, and an oil tanker—the SCA said in a statement. On Saturday, as many as 85 vessels are expected to pass through the canal on both sides, the SCA chairman said. This will include the last 61 of the 422 ships that had queued up behind the 'Ever Given' container while it was stuck in the Suez Canal, he added.
“This proves the global maritime community has great faith in the Suez Canal and Egypt's ability to guarantee safety and security to different types of vessels,” Rabie was quoted by the Associated Press in a statement.
Last Monday, salvage teams re-floated the skyscraper-sized 'Ever Given' by a flotilla of tugboats, helped by the tides, thus ending a crisis that had clogged one of the world's most vital waterways and halted billions of dollars a day in maritime commerce.
The Ever Given had crashed into a bank of a single-lane stretch of the canal about 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) north of the southern entrance, near the city of Suez in north-eastern Egypt. That forced some ships to take the long, alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa's southern tip—a 5,000-kilometre (3,100-mile) detour that costs ships hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and other costs. Others waited in place for the blockage to be over. The unprecedented shutdown, which raised fears of extended delays, goods shortages and rising costs for consumers, added to the strain on the shipping industry, already under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.
(With inputs from agencies)