A court case over the six-day blockage of the Suez Canal has been postponed to allow time for the owners of the huge Ever Given cargo ship to settle with authorities.
The two-week extension came as the Suez Canal Authority's legal team said it had received an offer of compensation from Japanese chartering company Shoei Kisen Kaisha.
In the meantime, the 400-metre-long ship, impounded after it was freed from the canal on March 29, will remain detained at the Great Bitter lake at the southern end of the canal.
The grounding of the Ever Given blocked one of the world's busiest trade routes, preventing hundreds of ships from passing through the narrow canal and disrupting global trade.
The head of the authority’s legal team, Khaled Abu Bakr, said a more “reasonable offer” had been made to the SCA and new negotiations would begin in the next two weeks.
He said the new offer was being studied and Shoei Kisen Kaisha has been given a deadline of July 4 to hand over the compensation.
The Japanese company did not confirm an offer had been made or how much it was.
After the blockage of the 193-kilometre canal was cleared, the SCA demanded $916 million for the salvage effort that claimed the life of a crew member, damaged the banks of the canal, and caused a huge loss in revenue.
But the SCA’s demands were disputed by the ship’s owners, who made a counter offer of $150m. The owners also demanded the ship be released but a court in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia ruled to keep it moored till the dispute was resolved.
The SCA’s compensation claim was later reduced to $550m but this was also disputed by the ship’s owners.
The case has been postponed once already, on May 29, to allow for negotiations between both parties.
Despite some heated accusations being fired by both sides at the start of the legal proceedings, one of the ship’s insurers, UK Club, said negotiations were headed in a more "serious and constructive" direction.