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The Ever Given is finally leaving the Suez Canal

By Hanna Ziady, CNN Business

The Ever Given has begun its journey out of the Suez Canal more than three months after it ran aground, clogging up one of the world’s most vital trade arteries and disrupting global supply chains.

The quarter-mile long container ship, which blocked the Suez Canal for six days in March will now sail to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cargo still on board. It was next due to call at Felixstowe in England.

The journey to Rotterdam could take about two weeks, as the vessel will likely have to sail at a slower pace than usual due to damage sustained from the incident, according to Jai Sharma, a partner at Clyde & Co. The law firm represents companies and insurers with over $100 million in cargo on the vessel and estimates the total value of goods on board to be over $600 million.

The Ever Given ran aground in the Suez Canal on March 23, heaping pressure on strained global supply chains as hundreds of other vessels became ensnared. The blockage exacerbated container shortages, port congestion and capacity constraints that have made it much more expensive to move goods around the world and caused shortages of everything from exercise bikes to cheese at a time of unprecedented demand.

The vessel was refloated on March 29 but has been held in the canal’s Great Bitter Lake amid a legal battle between Japanese ship owner Shoei Kisen Kaisha and the Suez Canal Authority, which initially filed a $900 million compensation claim for losses arising from the six-day blockage.

A formal agreement involving an undisclosed settlement was reached between the owners of the ship and the Suez Canal Authority, Khaled Abu Bakr, a lawyer acting for the Suez Canal Authority confirmed to CNN on Sunday.

In a statement on Wednesday, Shoei Kisen Kaisha thanked the Suez Canal Authority for the release of the ship and said it would “continue to be a regular and loyal customer” of the canal.

The company said the Ever Given will be inspected at Egypt’s Port Said before completing her voyage — subject to approval from the American Bureau of Shipping, the vessel’s classification society — and discharging her cargo. “We regret the impact that the voyage delay has had on those with cargo stuck on board,” it added.

The hold up has trapped goods belonging to companies such as IKEA and Lenovo and many smaller businesses on board. UK bicycle maker Pearson 1860 and Snuggy UK, which makes wearable blankets, have vital orders stuck on the vessel, which was carrying 18,300 containers.

Pearson 1860 expects to wait another three to four weeks before receiving its steel bicycle frames in London, causing it to narrowly miss its busiest sales period. The company has products worth more than $100,000 on the ship.

“We hope that the delivery process will be relatively seamless,” director Will Pearson told CNN Business on Wednesday. “It has been a frustrating time for so many companies with goods held to ransom for over 100 days, and little information forthcoming.”

— Mostafa Salem, Lina Wardani and Lauren Gunn contributed reporting.

Correction: A previous version of this story gave an incorrect date for when the Ever Given was refloated.

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