The Suez Canal Authority has said the cargo ship Ever Given could remain in Egypt until the shipowner agrees to pay compensation, which the authority estimates at about $1bn.
In an interview last week, head of the Suez Canal Authority Ossama Rabei said the estimate includes the cost of the week-long salvage operation to free the vessel, lost transit fees and the costs of delayed cargo to other ships.
“We will ask for a fair amount. We saved them so much by rescuing the ship without any major damage or losses,” Mr Rabei said, according to translations from his interview with an Egyptian news service. “This is the right of the country. It should get its due.”
“We could agree on a certain compensation, or it goes to court… If they decide to go to court, then the ship should be held,” Mr Rabei said.
Ship operator Evergreen Marine said the company is not liable for cargo delays. President of the firm Eric Hsieh reportedly told a press briefing in Taiwan that the operator does not guarantee arrival times with clients and any costs of the accident will be insured.
“Our risk exposure from the Ever Given incident is very low – even if there are damages, it will be covered by insurance,” Mr Hsieh said. “Evergreen is free of responsibility from cargo delays,” he added.
Mr Hsieh said 11 other ships chartered by Evergreen had been blocked from using the Suez Canal trading route by the Ever Given incident.
The Ever Given is currently sitting in the Great Bitter Lake, where it is undergoing an investigation and safety checks. The vessel’s black box has been handed over to authorities to establish what caused the ship to run aground in the narrow stretch of the canal. Initial reports said the ship lodged itself across the banks in strong winds.
More than 400 ships backed up in either direction while the Ever Given remained stuck, but the traffic was cleared during the weekend.