The operators of the Ever Given ship are exploring the possibility of transferring its 18,000 cargo-filled containers to other vessels as it remains stuck in legal limbo, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
The 224,000-ton cargo ship, which ran aground in the Suez Canal on March 23 and was freed 6 days later, still hasn’t been able to leave the Suez Canal after Egyptian authorities announced it must first pay $1 billion in damages.
But the ship’s operator, Taiwanese company Evergreen Marine Corp. , is facing increasing pressure to deliver its thousands of containers – filled with everything from toilet paper to coffee and furniture – to its frustrated customers.
“Customers are asking when their boxes will be delivered after the ship seizure, and the prospect of moving the containers to other ships and delivering them to the clients in Europe is now on the table,” an unnamed source, directly involved in the matter, told the Wall Street Journal.
But any efforts to remove the 18,000, 20-foot container units from the Ever Given could become a massive physical and logistical challenge, possibly requiring officials to move the vessel, which is currently anchored in the canal’s artificial Great Bitter Lake , to the nearby city of Port Said.
“It won’t be easy to do, but there are a number of options,” the same source told Wall Street Journal. “Empty ships can be deployed to pick up boxes and some can be loaded to other container ships crossing on the same route to Europe.”
The move could also create additional legal headaches, relating mainly to claims and fees surrounding the vessel and its cargo customers.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Evergreen Marine Corp. said in a statement that it is looking into the Egyptian court order “and studying the possibility of the vessel and the cargo on board being treated separately.”
Shoei Kisen Kaisha, the ship’s owner, earlier this month filed a general-average claim against the vessel’s operators, which calls for companies with cargo on the vessel to share the risk and costs involved in the ship’s recovery.
Two maritime lawyers, Bruce Paulsen and Brian Maloney of Seward & Kissel told the Maritime Executive this week: “The seizure of the Ever Given and compensation demand for salvage and other expenses by Egypt’s canal authority escalates the complexity and cost for the numerous cargo owners with property in transit aboard the vessel.” “Barring a settlement, those cargo owners now face additional expense and delay while the vessel’s arrest is maintained,” they added.
The ship was sailing from Asia to Europe when it got stuck in the channel, causing severe delivery delays and an epic traffic jam of roughly 400 other ships, which have since started passing through the canal again.
Evergreen hasn’t identified the customers whose shipments are on the Ever Given, although some companies, including IKEA and Germany-based supermarket ALDI , have already said they’ve been impacted.