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Giant ship which blocked Suez Canal finally allowed to resume voyage

The total value of goods destined for Europe but still in 18,300 containers on board is said to be worth over US$600 million.

Staff Writers
2 minute read
Panama-flagged cargo ship Ever Given seen wedged across the Suez Canal in this March file photo. Photo: AP
Panama-flagged cargo ship Ever Given seen wedged across the Suez Canal in this March file photo. Photo: AP

The giant container ship which blocked the Suez Canal for six days in March is finally being released from detention to resume its delayed voyage.

The 400m-long vessel will now sail to Rotterdam in the Netherlands to unload some of its estimated US$600 million worth of cargo. After that, it will deliver the remainder to Felixstowe in England.

The journey to Rotterdam could take about two weeks, as the ship will have to sail at a slower pace than usual due to damage sustained in the incident.

The Ever Given ran aground in the Suez Canal on March 23, heaping pressure on strained global supply chains as hundreds of other vessels were becalmed at both ends of the canal.

The blockage exacerbated container shortages, port congestion, and capacity constraints that have made it much more expensive to move goods around the world and caused shortages of everything from exercise bikes to cheese at a time of unprecedented demand as the pandemic winds down.

The vessel was refloated with difficulty on March 29 but has been held in the canal’s Great Bitter Lake amid a legal battle between Japanese ship owner Shoei Kisen Kaisha and the Suez Canal Authority, which initially filed a $900 million compensation claim for losses arising from the six-day blockage.

A formal agreement involving an undisclosed settlement was reached with the owners of the ship, a lawyer acting for the Suez Canal Authority confirmed to CNN on Sunday.

In a statement on Wednesday, Shoei Kisen Kaisha thanked the Suez Canal Authority for the release of the ship and said it would “continue to be a regular and loyal customer” of the canal.

The company said the Ever Given will be inspected at Egypt’s Port Said before completing her voyage – subject to approval from the American Bureau of Shipping, the vessel’s classification society – and discharging her cargo.

“We regret the impact that the voyage delay has had on those with cargo stuck on board,” it added.

The hold up has trapped goods belonging to companies such as Ikea and Lenovo and many smaller businesses on board. UK bicycle maker Pearson 1860 and Snuggy UK, which makes wearable blankets, have vital orders stuck on the vessel, which was carrying 18,300 containers.

Pearson 1860 expects to wait another three to four weeks before receiving its steel bicycle frames in London, causing it to narrowly miss its busiest sales period. The company has products worth more than US$100,000 on the ship.

“We hope that the delivery process will be relatively seamless,” director Will Pearson told CNN Business on Wednesday. “It has been a frustrating time for so many companies with goods held to ransom for over 100 days, and little information forthcoming.”