Suez Canal bosses say the excavator operator who helped free Ever Given is getting a bonus

Business Insider US
Abdullah Abdel-Gawad standing at his excavator, March 29.
Abdullah Abdel-Gawad/Facebook
  • The excavator driver who helped free the Ever Given ought to have been paid, Suez Canal bosses said.
  • Abdullah Abdul-Gawad, a subcontractor, earlier told Insider he was still waiting for overtime money.
  • The Suez Canal Authority said it paid, though Insider couldn't reach Abdul-Gawad's direct employer.
  • See more stories on Business Insider SA's home page.

The excavator driver who shot to fame for his work dislodging the massive Ever Given container ship from the Suez Canal ought to have been paid his overtime by now, the Suez Canal Authority said.

The body, also called the SCA, released a statement saying that it believes Abdullah Abdul-Gawad has got the extra money he was duel from the gruelling work helping to move the ship.

Officials at the SCA, which is owned by the Egyptian government, praised his work as "above and beyond" his obligation.

The announcement, made on Facebook last week, came after Insider interviewed Abdul-Gawad, who at the time said he had not gotten overtime pay yet. He spoke to Insider nine days after the ship had been freed.

Abdel-Gawad does not work for the SCA, but a subcontractor. He told Insider at the time that he fully expected to receive his overtime pay at some point, but noted that it was slow coming.

Insider has not been able to confirm with Abdul-Gawad's employer whether he has now received his overtime. Abdul-Gawad declined to comment.

After the Ever Given was grounded on March 23, blocking the Suez Canal entirely, images of Abdul-Gawad's digger trying to free it became world famous. A watching world found the sight of Abdul-Gawad's tiny excavator next to the colossal ship appealing material for memes.

But the actual working conditions he described painted a much more serious picture - he and his colleagues could only snatched brief sleep in a nearby hut, and that he feared for his safety.

The Ever Given, trapped in the Suez Canal, Egypt, as of Thursday March 25 2021.
Suez Canal Authority

The ship was freed on March 29 by the combined efforts of Abdul-Gawad's excavations, multiple tugboats, winches, a specialised dredger - and a supermoon-powered full tide.

The SCA took a victory lap in a statement on the same day, in which its head Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie congratulated SCA workers "who achieved this heroic feat saying that they have done their patriotic duty impeccably,"

But Abdul-Gawad told Insider he felt overlooked in the triumph.

In the Facebook statement, posted April 13, the SCA urged Egyptians "not to pay attention to rumors and anonymous news," and asked people to rely only on "official sources."

It added: "We affirm that the employee has obtained all his due salaries/fees from his employer in addition to a bonus in recognition of his service above and beyond."

The Ever Given remains in the Suez Canal's Great Bitter Lake, where it has been impounded amid a major legal action launched by the Egyptian government against the ship's owners.

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