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Egypt's Losses From Suez Blockage Estimated at $1 Billion

FILE - A cargo ship sails through the town of Ismailia, Egypt, March 30, 2021, as traffic resumed through the Suez Canal after it was blocked by a massive ship that had been stuck sideways for nearly a week.

The head of Egypt's Suez Canal Authority told journalists Thursday that the giant container ship Ever Given, which ran aground on March 23, blocking international shipping traffic, was being held in the Bitter Lakes region along the canal while an investigation continued with the ship’s captain and crew.

Lt. Gen. Oussama Rabie said he thought Egypt had incurred about $1 billion in damages from the accident. He lauded the experts and salvage crews that worked to free the ship, calling them the canal authority's most important capital. During the difficulty, he said, the authority relied on financial experts as well.

Said Sadek, who teaches political sociology in Cairo, said investigators urgently needed to find the causes of the accident.

"If it is not done, big trouble, because in this case, according to international law and Suez Canal law, the goods [on the ship] will be confiscated," Sadek said. "And so, if there is anything inside, it will be revealed. ... If there are children [being trafficked], if there are nuclear bombs, it will be revealed."

The ship is expected to be detained for two weeks. Sadek said both Egyptian and international investigators were at work on the case.

"Now this ship is under scrutiny, and they will not leave the [lakes region] where they are now being kept until all investigations are done," he said. "There will have to be agreement [about] who will pay the damages. We're talking about billions of dollars that will have to be paid."

Settlement could take time

Paul Sullivan, a professor at Washington-based U.S. National Defense University, told VOA that it is normal procedure for Egypt and the Suez Canal Authority to seek compensation for the accident, but he added that with the expected negotiations and court proceedings, it could take a long time for the matter to be settled.

Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli told a cabinet meeting Thursday that despite the “negative implications of the canal accident, it also highlighted the importance Egypt plays in world trade, along with the importance of the Suez Canal as a major world trade artery.”

Qatar's Al Jazeera TV reported that 81 ships had gone through the Suez Canal during the past 24 hours, and 163 ships had sailed through since the canal reopened Monday. Nearly 300 others are still waiting for their turns.