Ismailia - The Ever Given, one ofthe world's largest container ships, resumed its journey toleave the Suez Canal on Wednesday, 106 days after becoming wedged across a southern section of the waterway for nearly aweek and disrupting global trade.
The Ever Given started to head north in the late morning across the Great Bitter Lake, which separates two sections ofthe 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 thesite 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 beautifult hing ... we are happy of course." Canal sources said the Ever Given would be escorted by twotug boats and guided by two experienced pilots as it sailsthrough the canal, one of the world's busiest waterways, towardsthe Mediterranean.
The 400-metre (1,310-foot) vessel is loaded with about18,300 containers. Footage broadcast on Egyptian TV showed thecaptain and another crew member being presented with a bunch offlowers and a plaque on board the ship. The Ever Given had become grounded in the southern most, 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.
The SCA demanded more than $900 million for the salvage operation and other losses, later lowered to $550 million. TheEver 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 theship would be released. Khalid Abubakr, a lawyer for the SCA, said on Wednesday thatthe authority was committed to keeping the terms of the agreement confidential. Yukito Higaki of Imabari shipbuilding, of which Shoei Kisenis a subsidiary, thanked the SCA in a recorded statement. "Our company has a large fleet of ships and will continue tobe a regular and loyal customer of the Suez Canal, which in ourview 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. Itis an important source of foreign currency revenue for Egypt. In the wake of the Ever Given's grounding, the SCA hasstarted work to widen and deepen the southernmost section of thecanal, and to extend a second lane further north that was builtin a 2015 expansion.