UPDATED: Ever Given container ship begins exit from Suez Canal

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The Ever Given, one of the world’s largest container ships, resumed its journey to leave the Suez Canal on Wednesday, 106 days after becoming wedged across a southern section of the waterway for nearly a week and disrupting global trade.

The Ever Given started to head north in the late morning across the Great Bitter Lake, which separates two sections of the canal and where it had been moored with its Indian crew since being refloated on March 29.

It then joined the back of a northbound convoy, passing the site of a ceremony where the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) and representatives for the ship signed the compensation settlement that allowed for its release.

Tarek Alzeki, captain of a tug boat carrying reporters, said the Ever Given would reach Port Said at the canal’s northern end after about six hours.

“May God let it arrive safely,” he said. “It is a beautiful thing … we are happy of course.”

Canal sources said the Ever Given would be escorted by two tug boats and guided by two experienced pilots as it sails through the canal, one of the world’s busiest waterways, towards the Mediterranean.

The 400-metre (1,310-foot) vessel is loaded with about 18,300 containers. Footage broadcast on Egyptian TV showed the captain and another crew member being presented with a bunch of flowers and a plaque on board the ship.

The Ever Given had become grounded in the southernmost, single-lane stretch of the canal on March 23 amid high winds.

It was then held by the SCA under court order while the authority sought compensation from the ship’s Japanese owner Shoei Kisen and its insurers.

COMPENSATION CLAIM

The SCA demanded more than $900 million for the salvage operation and other losses, later lowered to $550 million. The Ever Given’s owners and insurers had disputed its detention and the compensation claim.

After protracted negotiations, an undisclosed settlement between the parties was reached and the SCA announced that the ship would be released.

Khalid Abubakr, a lawyer for the SCA, said on Wednesday that the authority was committed to keeping the terms of the agreement confidential.

Yukito Higaki of Imabari shipbuilding, of which Shoei Kisen is a subsidiary, thanked the SCA in a recorded statement.

“Our company has a large fleet of ships and will continue to be a regular and loyal customer of the Suez Canal, which in our view remains an indispensable asset for international maritime trade,” he said.

About 15% of world shipping traffic transits the Suez Canal, which is the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia. It is an important source of foreign currency revenue for Egypt.

In the wake of the Ever Given’s grounding, the SCA has started work to widen and deepen the southernmost section of the canal, and to extend a second lane further north that was built in a 2015 expansion.

Photo: After reaching a settlement between Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority and the owner, the Ever Given ship set to sail from Great Bitter Lake near Ismailia Governorate, Egypt, 07 July 2021. EPA-EFE/KHALED ELFIQI