An Egyptian court on Saturday May 29th adjourned until June 20th the case on the Ever Given in order to allow for more time to negotiate an agreed level of compensation. Lawyers of both the Suez Canal Authority and Shoei Kisen, the owner of the Ever Given, had requested the postponement.
The SCA’s initial demand for $916m in damages linked to the waterway’s six-day closure from March 23rd to 29th was lowered to $550m after the SCA said that it had miscalculated the value of the cargoes aboard of the ship. The vessel’s insurers, which had initially estimated the liability at less than $150m, continued to say that the amount requested was too high. The SCA has also indicated that it would accept a “deposit” of less than $550m in order to facilitate the freeing of the Ever Given from Great Bitter Lake, where the vessel and its cargo remain detained.
SCA lawyer Nabil Zidan said in the court that “there are endeavours to reach a settlement and, because they are good clients, we are asking the court to postpone to negotiate and study the offer submitted by the owners”.
Ahmed Abu Shanab, the ship owner’s lawyer, said that “negotiations are ongoing and there’s flexibility on both sides”.
Zidan had said before the hearing that the SCA would recalculate its claim, but did not say what that meant for the lawsuit, or what the new figure might be.
Earlier, SCA chairman Osama Rabie had said that the grounding of the Ever Given on March 23rd was the result of the vessel travelling too fast and the size of the rudder. Part of the difference between the owner and operator on one side and the SCA on the other appears to be how the power and responsibility between the pilots (employed by the SCA) and the captain should be allocated when a ship is moving through the Canal.
Rabie said that the Captain could have chosen not to enter the waterway in the bad weather. Owner Shoei Kisen has said that the SCA was at fault for allowing the vessel to enter and not providing tugs. Rabie said in response that the captain could have held the ship back. “He knows the capabilities of his ship … so he can come and say, ‘I don’t want to enter, I feel the weather is not appropriate,”
The Ever Given was travelling at about 25lph before the grounding, compared with the 8-to-9kmh appropriate for the canal’s narrow southern channel. He said that because of the speed two tug boats accompanying the Ever Given were unable to help.
Rabie said that “the speed was very high and the rudder was not aligned. There were a lot of technical faults, among those was that the rudder’s size was not appropriate to the size of the ship.”
A member of Shoei Kisen’s legal team told Reuters on Saturday May 29th that the authority had failed to prove any fault by the ship.
Rabie also said that “we lowered our price by about 40% and we also said we would facilitate things for them, but honestly the offer they made doesn’t come to the level we’re talking about,” said Rabie.
Only the court had the power to release the ship or its cargo, Rabie said.