Suez Canal Authority says crew member died in 'Ever Given' rescue

Authority continues to hold large container vessel until $550m in damages is paid

File photo: The MV Ever Given after the huge container ship got stuck during a sandstorm and blocked a major artery for global trade. AFP 
File photo: The MV Ever Given after the huge container ship got stuck during a sandstorm and blocked a major artery for global trade. AFP 

The Suez Canal Authority has revealed that a crew member died during the six-day block caused by the large container ship Ever Given running aground.

The authority is holding the ship until a $550 million claim against the Japanese owner, ship-leasing company Shoei Kisen Kashai, is settled.

On Tuesday, the authority released details in a statement of damages on its official Facebook page of damages sustained because of the incident.

“One death, the sinking of one of our rescue boats and 48 ships having to find alternative routes are among the authority’s most prominent losses,” it said.

Shoei Kisen Kashai’s legal team maintains that the accident was the authority’s fault.

They say that because the authority's workers approved the ship’s entry to the canal during bad weather, the losses are the authority’s responsibility.

An economics court in the Egyptian governorate of Ismailia held hearings on Saturday over the ship’s detention.

On Sunday, the detention order was sustained until the dispute is settled. The case has been moved to a lower court as proceedings continue.

The authority initially requested $916m in compensation to cover the loss of transit fees, damage to the waterway during the dredging and salvaging, and the cost of equipment and labour.

Its financial claim was later reduced to $550m, with $200 million in cash and the rest to be paid separately.

The reduced offer was rejected by the ship’s owner, whose legal team continued to appeal against the detention order.

The authority's chairman, Admiral Osama Rabie, told an Egyptian TV talk show that it was stil open to negotiations with the Japanese company’s legal team to settle the dispute.

He said Shoei Kisen Kashai made a counter offer of $150m in compensation, which he claimed was unacceptable given the authority’s significant losses.

On Tuesday, in a meeting with a Panamanian delegation led by Alejandro Gentes, Panama’s ambassador to Egypt, Admiral Rabie expressed disdain over the ship owner’s lack of appreciation for the Egyptian rescue.

Rescuers were able to float the container in six days, which he considers to be an admirable feat.

Ahmed Abu Ali, a member of the company's legal team, said the authority failed to prove any fault with the ship, thereby implying that rescue efforts were the least the it could do after its actions resulted in the ship blocking the canal.

Mr Abu Ali said that because the rescue work was not a “salvage operation” in the strictest legal sense, the authority’s claims were unfounded.

He said articles in Shoei Kisen Kashai’s contract with the authority said is was the agency’s responsibility to rescue the ship in the event of any incidents.

The authority is referring to articles in an Egyptian maritime law from 1990 that state the ship is under the captain’s leadership during its canal transit and is solely responsible for any damage.

The authority's statement claimed that the ship owner did not report that it was carrying flammable cargo when it entered the Suez Canal, in clear breach of canal rules.

And it asserts that investigations proved conclusively that it was the ship’s captain who was “wholly at fault” and not his pilot, who is typically an authority employee charged with getting the ship through the canal.

“We trust in the Egyptian judiciary and we are implementing the utmost flexibility in dealing with the company’s demands,” the authority said.

“Bad weather was not the reason for the ship’s grounding as 12 other ships went through the canal successfully before the Ever Given.”

More on Ever Given

Egyptian court upholds detention of 'Ever Given' ship

Shipowner says 'Ever Given' grounding was Suez Canal's fault

Egypt court to rule on $916m 'Ever Given' compensation claim over Suez Canal blocking

Updated: May 26, 2021 08:02 AM

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