In this photo released by Suez Canal Authority, the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship is accompanied by Suez Canal tugboats as it moves in the Suez Canal, Egypt, Monday, March 29, 2021. Salvage teams on Monday set free a colossal container ship that has halted global trade through the Suez Canal, bringing an end to a crisis that for nearly a week had clogged one of the world’s most vital maritime arteries. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

In this photo released by Suez Canal Authority, the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship is accompanied by Suez Canal tugboats as it moves in the Suez Canal, Egypt, Monday, March 29, 2021. Salvage teams on Monday set free a colossal container ship that has halted global trade through the Suez Canal, bringing an end to a crisis that for nearly a week had clogged one of the world’s most vital maritime arteries. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

With ship now freed, a probe into Suez Canal blockage begins

When blame gets assigned, it will likely lead to years of litigation to recoup the costs

Experts boarded the massive container ship Tuesday that had blocked Egypt’s vital Suez Canal and disrupted global trade for nearly a week, seeking answers to a single question that could have billions of dollars in legal repercussions: What went wrong?

As convoys of ships again began travelling through the artery linking the Mediterranean and Red Seas, a canal service provider said more than 300 vessels carrying everything from crude oil to cattle were still waiting for their turn in a process that will take days. Egyptian government officials, insurers, shippers and others similarly waited for more details about what caused the skyscraper-sized Ever Given to become wedged across the canal on March 23.

When blame gets assigned, it will likely lead to years of litigation to recoup the costs of repairing the ship, fixing the canal and reimbursing those who saw their cargo shipments disrupted. Since the vessel is owned by a Japanese firm, operated by a Taiwanese shipper, flagged in Panama and now stuck in Egypt, matters quickly become an international morass.

“This ship is a multinational conglomeration,” said Capt. John Konrad, the founder and CEO of the shipping news website gcaptain.com.

Experts boarded the Ever Given as it idled Tuesday in Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake, just north of the site where it previously blocked the canal. A senior canal pilot, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to journalists, told The Associated Press that experts were looking for signs of damage and trying to determine why the vessel ran aground.

There could be significant damage to the the ship, Konrad warned. Stuck for days across the canal, the ship’s middle rose and fell with the tide, bending up and down under the tremendous weight of some 20,000 containers across its 400-meter (quarter-mile) length. On Monday, when workers partially floated the ship, all that pressure came forward to its bow.

“Structural integrity is No. 1. You know, there was a lot of strain on that ship as it was sagging in the waterway,” Konrad said. “They have to check everything for cracks and particularly that rudder and the propeller in the back that’s connected to the engine room.”

“And then they have to go through all the mechanical equipment, make sure they test the engines, all the safety valves, all the equipment, and then determine that it’s safe to sail either by itself or with a tug escort to the next port,” he added.

The ship’s owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., said Tuesday that it would be part of the investigation along with other parties, though it did not identify them by name. It also refused to discuss possible causes of the grounding, including the ship’s speed and the high winds that buffeted it during a sandstorm, saying it could not comment on an ongoing investigation. Initial reports also suggested a “blackout” struck the vessel, something denied by the ship’s technical manager.

The company added that any damage to the ship was believed to be mostly on its keel. It said it was not immediately known whether the vessel will be repaired on site in Egypt or elsewhere, or whether it will eventually head to its initial destination of Rotterdam. That is a decision to be made by its operator, rather than the shipowner, the company said.

The grounding of the ship had halted billions of dollars a day in maritime commerce. Analysts expect it could take at least another 10 days to clear the backlog — though Egypt’s president said Tuesday it would take just three. The losses to shippers, as well as any physical damage to the vessel itself, likely will see lawsuits.

READ MORE: Giant container ship that blocked Suez Canal set free

Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd. is covered with some $3 billion in liability insurance through 13 Protection & Indemnity Clubs. Those clubs are not-for-profit mutual insurers used by the vast majority of global shipping firms.

Global legal firm Clyde and Co. said the Ever Given’s owner likely would pay Egypt’s canal authority for the assistance already rendered to the vessel. The authority also could fine the Ever Given.

“We anticipate a detailed investigation will follow which will determine the cause,” the firm said. ”Evidently the cause will impact upon the legal liabilities of the ship and cargo interests.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi travelled Tuesday to the canalside city of Ismailia to praise those who freed the vessel.

Speaking to a small group of reporters on a dock overlooking the waterway, el-Sissi deflected questions about the investigation, saying Egypt would not interfere in a probe that will be left to “the specialists.”

“We want to confirm to all the world, that things are back to as they were,” he added. He stood before a sign that said: “Welcome to the Suez Canal: Egypt’s lifeline of peace, prosperity and development.”

On Monday, a flotilla of tugboats helped by the tides, wrenched the bulbous bow of Ever Given from the canal’s sandy bank, where it had been firmly lodged. The tugs blared their horns in jubilation as they guided the Ever Given through the water after days of futility that had captivated the world, drawing scrutiny and social media ridicule.

The Ever Given had crashed into a bank of a single-lane stretch of the canal about 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) north of the southern entrance, near the city of Suez. That forced some ships to take the long, alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip — a 5,000-kilometre (3,100-mile) detour that costs ships hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and other costs.

The unprecedented shutdown, which raised fears of extended delays, goods shortages and rising costs for consumers, added to strain on the shipping industry already under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.

___

Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Isabel DeBre in Dubai contributed to this report.

Samy Magdy And Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Egypt

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The old Yount school in Youbou has stood empty for years, but now a group has plans to turn it into a mixed-use property with affordable housing and tourist services. (Submitted)
Group sets sights on tranforming old Yount school property in Youbou

School District 79 has already commenced a process to sell the school through a formal proposal call

North Cowicha to extend the time lines of its official community plan update. (File photo)
North Cowichan to extend time line of OCP review

Municipality also adds $55,000 to OCP budget

Cowichan Capitals’ Logan Rands digs for the puck along the boards in the Alberni Valley Bulldogs’ zone midway through the third period of their BC Hockey League game at the Alberni Valley Multiplex on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Cowichan Capitals pick up first two wins of BCHL season

Brockman, Moffatt both up to four goals on the year

A nearly four-hour standoff at an apartment complex on Cowichan Lake Road in Duncan ended peacefully on Wednesday, April 14. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Standoff at Duncan apartment ends peacefully

Police surround building as homeowner held in apartment by adult son

B.C. Centre for Disease Control maps showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 4-10. (BCCDC image)
Parksville-Qualicum passes Nanaimo in new COVID-19 cases

Greater Victoria had more new cases than any other Island area: B.C. Centre for Disease Control

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The family of Iris McNeil, shown here with members of her family, has launched a petition to deny parole for the man who murdered McNeil in 1997. (Family photo)
Family fights killer’s release from Vancouver Island prison

Shortreed serving an indeterminate sentence at William Head Institution

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier John Horgan booked to get AstraZeneca shot Friday

‘Let’s show all British Columbians that the best vaccine is the one that’s available to you now,’ he said

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada’s incoming supply of Moderna vaccine slashed in half through end of April

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the province’s COVID-19 vaccine plans during a news conference at the legislature in Victoria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
P.1 variant likely highest in B.C. due to more testing for it: Dr. Henry

Overall, just under 60% of new daily cases in the province involve variants

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Most Read