Remember the Ever Given? How could you forget — it’s one of the largest shipping container vessels in the world and its still sitting in the Great Bitter Lake after spending six days lodged in the Suez Canal back in March. Now we know how it got stuck in the first place, at least, according to Egyptian authorities.
On Monday, the Suez Canal Authority partially released its version of events which, not surprisingly, placed 100 percent of the blame on the shoulders of the Ever Given’s captain. From the Wall Street Journal:
Egyptian officials made their most specific allegations against the captain of a container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week in March, accusing the skipper of losing control of the Ever Given and hitting the vital waterway’s bank.
The ship swerved left and right before becoming lodged in the bank of the canal, said Sayed Sheisha, the chief investigator for the Suez Canal Authority. “The captain issued eight commands within 12 minutes as he tried to bring the ship back into alignment.”
He said the ship was veering to the right as it entered the canal and that the captain tried to pull the ship back to the center. He said the captain accelerated when the ship’s response was too slow. The ship veered instead to the left, and then to the right again before slamming into the bank of the canal, Mr. Sheisha said.
It’s worth noting that it is in the the SCA’s best interests to put the blame entirely on the Ever Given’s crew. There’s a lot of money at stake over who gets the blame. The SCA is holding the Ever Given and its $750 million in cargo plus remaining 18 crew members as collateral until a $550 million fine is paid by the ship’s insurance companies. That’s a little more half of what Egypt was originally demanding.
While the ship’s Japanese owners, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd, and its German operators Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement Ltd could not be reached for comment, a lawyer for Shoei Kisen Kaisha previously blamed a massive windstorm for the accident. It’s their opinion that the ship should never have been allowed into the Canal during such intense sandstorms. Just last week the Ismailia Economic Court heard recordings of the Ever Given crew arguing with Suez Canal Authority pilots over whether the ship could make it through or not. Also, two SCA pilots were onboard when the Ever Given ran aground. The SCA, however, says the ship’s captain is the one who ultimately makes the decision on what happens on the ship.
At least one ship put off passing through the canal that day and other ports nearby closed, though other ships made it through just fine by themselves or with help from a tug boat before the Ever Given blocked the canal. In a story published a day before crews freed the Ever Given, Bloomberg reported shipping companies use only the most experienced captains to navigate the canal. Even the SCA initially blamed the wind and low visibility of the sandstorm:
“You’re in for some white-knuckle rides,” said Andrew Kinsey, a former captain who has navigated a 300-meter cargo ship through the Suez and is now a senior marine risk consultant at Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty. “It’s such a small canal, the winds are very rough and you have a really small margin for error and big consequences if errors happen.”
The Suez Canal Authority said a lack of visibility in adverse weather led to the ship losing control and drifting. It hasn’t commented further. Taiwan-based Evergreen Line, the time charterer of the vessel, said by email the Ever Given “was grounded accidentally after deviating from its course due to suspected sudden strong wind.”
The manager of the ship, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, said initial investigations suggest the accident was due to the wind. An extensive investigation involving multi-agencies and parties is ongoing. It will include interviews with pilots onboard and all bridge personnel and other crew, said a company spokesman.
The Ever Given was finally freed after spending six days lodged in the canal. Some worked around the clock in the massive effort and one person died when a salvage boat capsized, according to the Associated Press. The case is still ongoing, and court will not reconvene until June 20, leaving the 18 crew members and some 18,000 shipping containers in limbo for a little while longer.