'Ever Given' successfully sails through Egypt's Suez Canal

The 400-metre container ship that blocked the waterway in March has passed through without incident this time

The 'Ever Given', one of the world's largest container ships, sails through the Suez Canal in Ismailia, Egypt on August 20, 2021.  Suez Canal Authority via Reuters
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The giant container ship Ever Given traversed Egypt's Suez Canal again for the first time since it blocked the waterway for six days in March after running aground.

The 400-metre vessel successfully completed its 22nd journey through the canal on its way to China, the Suez Canal Authority said on Friday.

The canal's most experienced pilots boarded the ship to make sure its passage was as smooth as possible, the SCA said. The vessel was also accompanied by the authority's two largest tugboats in case any problems occurred.

Unlike its previous passage through the canal, the ship was not fully loaded.

The Panama-registered ship returned to the canal through the northern Port Said entrance, travelling in the opposite direction to which it was headed in March, a little more than a month after it departed Egyptian waters.

The grounding of the Ever Given caused millions in revenue losses for the canal’s authority as well as private shipping companies whose vessels either had to wait at mooring stations or make the longer and more expensive journey around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

After the ship was refloated in March, it was detained at the Great Bitter Lake, halfway through the canal, pending a legal dispute between the canal’s authority and the ship’s owners over the compensation sum for the blockage, the resulting loss in revenue and damages sustained to the canal.

The container ship then headed to Rotterdam where it remained until August 2, when it began its journey back to go through the canal. It also made a stop in Malta, according to the online shipping tracker Vessel Finder.

The ship left Egyptian waters after a ceremony on July 7 in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, where the compensation contract was signed between canal officials and the ship owner’s legal team.

Though the compensation sum was never officially announced by the canal’s authority, which is characteristically tight-lipped about the inner workings of the waterway, The National received confirmation that it had received $540 million.

"The return of the Ever Given cements the importance of the canal as a vital passage from the West to the East. It also reflects the amicability of the authority's relations with the ship's owners," said SCA chairman Admiral Osama Rabie on Friday.

The authority's relationship with the ship's owners, Japanese freight company Shoei Kisen Kaisha, was somewhat strained during the ship's detention in light of a heated legal dispute over the compensation sum.

The canal authority has been undertaking an ambitious plan to revamp the canal by adding new mooring stations and more technologically advanced equipment to help ships navigate the canal more efficiently.

It announced plans to dredge a second lane in the famed waterway, many portions of which remain single-lane. The introduction of a second lane will ensure more ships are able to navigate the canal at once in addition to making it easier to deal with any vessels that run aground.

Updated: August 21, 2021, 4:12 AM