The Ever Given, the ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal for a week and prompted an international shipping crisis, was is finally free to leave the Suez Canal, authorities said last week. But like every modern story this one won’t end there, as it will probably be tied up in court for months if not years.
And who knows from whom, or in what venue, as on Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that the Ever Given’s owners are expecting potentially “thousands” of legal claims.
The scale of future litigation against the vessel’s owners was laid bare at a London court hearing Tuesday where lawyers won a court order to put any potential claims on hold for two months. Two subsidiaries of Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the container vessels’ owner, and Evergreen Group, a Taiwanese conglomerate that operated it under a long-term charter, asked a London judge for the stay.
Earlier this year, they obtained another order limiting some claims against the ship to 84 million pounds ($116 million).
“The owners’ position is that they are not liable for the grounding incident or its consequences,” [Stewart Buckingham, a lawyer for the owners] said in a court filing. When the ship became stuck, it was being led by a Suez Canal pilot, who had earlier taken over from the harbor pilot who had driven the ship from the Suez anchorage into the canal, he said.
Further wrinkles here include that there were no injuries or deaths, there was limited damage to the ship itself, and there wasn’t any pollution caused by the incident. But that is just the beginning, as none of that stuff accounts for the cargo on the ship, which, at this point could be spoiled or otherwise damaged by virtue of the ship staying in the same place for months.
The shipping publication Lloyd’s List looked at some of the ramifications of that last month, and it sounds ridiculously complicated, with lawyers, insurers, accountants, and all sorts of other stakeholders involved.
“Where these things get into a dispute often is how you value the loss, especially when you are talking about a lost revenue claim or lost income,” [lawyer John Ellison] said. “There is never a black and white answer to that question. Accountants, just like lawyers, are good at coming up with different ways to argue about things.”
It is difficult to quantify just how much delays will add to the bill, but eight-figure dollars seems a reasonable guess.
Moreover, some cargo interests with a paid-out valid claim on cargo insurance will opt to dump the containers.
“The box will sit on a quayside somewhere for quite a long time until someone decides they have had enough and empties it,” said [lawyer James Turner]
I’m sure the moment that the Ever Given got stuck probably hundreds of lawyers lit up because they knew a payday was coming eventually. And for however complex this is, I like how the lawyer says that at least some of the boxes will be dealt with in the same manner in which I decide to clean my kitchen. Fine, I’ll clean it, at this point I’m just tired of looking at it.