'Ever Given' ship manager asks Suez Canal Authority to release 3 more crew members

The authority said it had no objection to departure operations as long as there are enough sailors to secure the vessel pending negotiations

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The technical managers of the Ever Given, the container ship that blocked the Suez Canal in March, have asked the canal authority to allow three of the 25 crew members on board to leave the ship.

"The SCA has indicated that they will allow crew members to leave the vessel upon expiry of their contracts, and requests to allow three crew members to depart have been submitted to the SCA for their approval on this basis," a spokesperson for Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) told The National.

The 400-metre-long vessel blocked the major global trade artery for six days before being freed on March 29. It has since been detained in the Great Bitter Lake, about halfway along the canal, after the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) asked an Egyptian court to issue a seizure order.

The authority has claimed $916 million in damages from the ship’s owner Japanese company Shoei Kisen Kaisha and negotiations are ongoing.

SCA Chairman Osama Rabie said in a statement on Monday the authority is keen to make the negotiations a success with the owner and insurer UK P&I Club.

The authority does not object to departure or crew changeover operations, “provided the presence of a sufficient number of sailors to secure the vessel and in light of the presence of the ship captain as he stands as the judicial guardian of the ship and the cargo aboard”, the statement said.

Two crew members were allowed to leave the ship earlier this month and return to their homeland due to urgent personal circumstances.

“We’re grateful to the SCA for allowing these two individuals who needed to get home to their families to do so,” the BSM spokesperson said.

View from Suez Canal bank as Ever Given is freed

View from Suez Canal bank as Ever Given is freed

Three crew members are now due to be relieved based on the expiration of the terms of their contracts.

“Crew members who depart will be replaced to maintain minimum safe manning standards for the vessel,” he added.

BSM said in a statement earlier this month that the decision to arrest the vessel was "extremely disappointing".

The company also thanked the crew of 25 Indian nationals for their "hard work and tireless professionalism".

Shoei Kisen has filed an appeal against the ship’s detention to be heard on May 4. The ship owner declined to comment further.

"It would just allow the vessel to continue on her voyage, while negotiations in regards to the claim continue, so the cargo can get to the people who need it and the crew can continue with their jobs," a spokesperson from insurer UK P&I Club told The National.

UK P&I covers third-party liability insurance, which includes “things such as damage to the canal – if indeed there was damage to the canal” and loss of revenue, the spokesperson said.

The SCA has calculated that it missed out on about $15m of transit fees each day. UK P&I said the claim also included a $300m salvage bonus and another $300m for loss of reputation.

"The SCA has not provided a detailed justification for their extraordinarily large claim," the spokesperson said.

Mr Rabie had told local television channel Sada Elbalad that the figure is an estimate of losses linked to transit fees, damages incurred during the dredging and salvage efforts, the cost of the equipment and labour.

The insurer said it made a “generous offer” to the authority on April 12, which was rejected.

The spokesperson declined to give an exact figure, but said “we’re still some way apart”.

“We continue to have open and good faith negotiations with the SCA,” he said. “It’s impossible to judge how long it will take.”