Suez Canal chief: Vessel impounded amid financial dispute

FILE - In this March 30, 2021 file photo, the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship, is seen in Egypt's Great Bitter Lake. Egyptian authorities confiscated the massive cargo vessel that blocked the Suez Canal last month amid a financial dispute with its owner, the canal chief and a judicial official said Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Mohamed Elshahed, File)
FILE - In this March 30, 2021 file photo, the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship, is seen in Egypt's Great Bitter Lake. Egyptian authorities confiscated the massive cargo vessel that blocked the Suez Canal last month amid a financial dispute with its owner, the canal chief and a judicial official said Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Mohamed Elshahed, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

CAIRO – Egyptian authorities impounded a massive cargo vessel that blocked the Suez Canal last month amid a financial dispute with its owner, the canal chief and a judicial official said Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie said the hulking Ever Given would not be allowed to leave the country until a compensation amount is settled on with the vessel's Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd.

“The vessel is now officially impounded,” he told Egypt’s state-run television late Monday. “They do not want to pay anything.”

There was no immediate comment from the vessel's owner.

Rabei did not say how much money the canal authority was seeking. However, a judicial official said it demanded at least $900 million. The state-run Ahram daily also reported the $900 million figure.

That amount takes into account the salvage operation, costs of stalled canal traffic and lost transit fees for the week that the Ever Given blocked the canal.

The official said the order to impound the vessel was issued Monday by a court in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, and that the vessel’s crew has been informed Tuesday.

He said prosecutors in Ismailia also opened a separate investigation into what led the Ever Given to run aground. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media.