The head of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said on Monday he hoped talks would soon yield an agreement with the owner and insurer of a giant container ship which is still being detained since it blocked the waterway for six days last month.
The 400-meter Ever Given became wedged diagonally across the canal in high winds on March 23, blocking all traffic. Since it finally came unstuck, it has been held with its cargo in a lake separating two stretches of the canal. The SCA has made a $916 million claim against its Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen.
Only two crew members have left the ship since it dropped anchor in the lake after being dislodged on March 29, while 23 crew, all Indian nationals, remain on board.
In a statement, SCA Chairman Osama Rabie said the crew were not detained and were free to leave or be replaced, as long as the captain stays on board as the guardian of the vessel and its cargo.
The ship's protection and indemnity insurer UK P&I Club and its technical manager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) have said they are disappointed that the ship is being held. UK P&I Club has filed an appeal at an Egyptian court against its detention, citing a lack of supporting evidence for the SCA's claim.
"The [SCA] is dealing with all the specific requirements of the negotiation with complete flexibility, in full respect for international norms in these sorts of situations," Rabie said on Monday.
(Reporting by Yusri Mohamed; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams and Peter Graff)