Egypt: Suez Canal ship case adjourned for settlement talks
Tugboats work late into the night to dislodge the giant container ship that blocked traffic through the vital Suez Canal. (AFP)
CAIRO -- An Egyptian court on Sunday adjourned until July 4 the case of a hulking cargo vessel that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week earlier this year.
The decision came after both legal teams of the Suez Canal and the vessel's owners asked for more time for negotiations that aim at resolving their financial dispute.
The dispute centers on the compensation amount the Suez Canal Authority is claiming for the salvage of the vessel Ever Given, which ran aground in March, blocking the crucial waterway for six days.
The money would cover the salvage operation, costs of stalled canal traffic, and lost transit fees for the week the Ever Given blocked the canal.
At first, the Suez Canal Authority demanded $916 million in compensation, which was later lowered to $550 million.
Since it was freed, the Panama-flagged vessel, which carries cargo between Asia and Europe, has been ordered by authorities to remain in a holding lake mid-canal as its owner and the canal authority try to settle the compensation dispute.
The two sides have traded blame for the vessel's grounding.
The Ismailia Economic Court adjourned the hearing after the Suez Canal's attorneys said they were looking into a new offer made by the vessel's owners. Lawyers did not share any details of the offer.
The six-day blockage disrupted global shipping. Hundreds of ships waited in place for the canal to be unblocked, while some ships were forced to take the much longer route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa's southern tip, requiring additional fuel and other costs.
About 10% of world trade flows through the canal, a pivotal source of foreign currency to Egypt. Some 19,000 vessels passed through the canal last year, according to official figures.