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Egyptian court upholds detention of ship that blocked canal
The Suez Canal Authority said it bore no responsibility for the Ever Given's grounding in March, reasserting that responsibility lay with the ship's captain alone. File photo by Maxar Technologies via Reuters.

(ATF) An Egyptian court on Sunday rejected a complaint by the Japanese owner of a container ship that blocked traffic in the Suez Canal for six days in March against the vessel’s detention by canal authorities.

The Ever Given, one of the world’s largest container ships, became jammed across the canal in high winds on March 23, halting traffic in both directions and disrupting global trade.

The complaint was made before the economic court in Ismailia in which the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) sought $916 million in compensation from the Ever Given’s owner, Shoei Kisen.

The SCA did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but it has publicly denied being at fault, rebutting arguments made a day before by Shoei Kisen’s legal team.

Lawyers for Shoei Kisen said the ship should have been accompanied by at least two tugboats suitable for the ship’s size “but this didn’t happen”.

They also argued that the Ever Given’s detention was legally flawed because work to release the ship was not “a salvage (operation) in the proper legal sense”, meaning the SCA could not seek compensation.

The head of the SCA suggested in a TV interview that the canal could accept the reduced sum of $550 million, slightly lower than the $600 million he had mentioned earlier this month for a potential out of court settlement.

SCA Chairman Osama Rabie said a $200 million deposit could be enough to secure the ship’s release, with the rest payable separately.

The Ismailia court on Sunday referred the case back to a court of first instance, which is due to consider it on May 29, said Ahmed Abu Ali, one of the lawyers representing the owner.

Any ruling made by the lower court could trigger appeals, said another lawyer, Ahmed Abu Shanab, indicating that legal wrangling could drag on.

With reporting by Reuters

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.

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