While it might seem like a lifetime ago, it was only a month-and-a-half ago that the gargantuan Ever Given cargo ship ran aground on both sides of the Suez Canal. The ship, which is so big it could easily carry all of the gold humans have ever mined, became wedged due to a combination of factors, likely including human error and the effects of a raging sandstorm.
The ship remained stuck in the canal for six days, costing some $10,000 per second to international trade as it clogged one of the world’s major commercial shipping lanes. The Suez Canal allows for travel between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean, making it integral to trade between Europe, Africa, and Asia. Over a month since the ship was unstuck, however, it remains impounded in the Great Bitter Lake, a waterway in the canal.
Egyptian authorities have been seeking some $916 million from the ship’s owners, Shoei Kisen Kaisha. The Japanese company has balked at this price tag, claiming it’s far greater than what they should have to pay. In the meantime, the Ever Given itself and most of its crew are stuck in the Great Bitter Lake. Egyptian authorities won’t allow the ship to leave and insist some of the crewmembers stay on to manage the vessel while they sort out the payment with the ship’s owners.
The Suez Canal Authority recently lowered the damages they were seeking, bringing the total down to around $600 million from nearly a billion dollars. It’s not clear if Shoei Kisen Kaisha will pay this reduced sum, either; shortly after the boat ran aground, the company set up a limitation fund that only capped out at $115 million. This kind of fund is an effort to limit how much liability the company might have. Whether this will actually work remains to be seen.
In the middle of this argument, many sailors are currently stranded on the boat. The crew has been stuck on the ship since it was pulled out of the canal, and they have no target date by which they can expect to be home. This kind of stranding is sadly common in the world of international shipping, despite efforts by sailors’ unions to limit the ways it can occur.
For the time being, the crew is in limbo, waiting for a deal between Shoei Kisen Kaisha and the Suez Canal Authority that seems unlikely to be resolved soon.