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

Just Posted

Drums were heard along Dogwood St. in Campbell River today, as a group marched around the city in recognition of National Indigenous Peoples Day. Photo by Sean Feagan / Campbell River Mirror
PHOTO: Marching for National Indigenous Peoples Day

Event celebrates heritage, cultures and achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

Police are looking for information regarding several vehicles being vandalized with blue-grey spray paint over the early morning of June 20. Photo courtesy Garrett Lee
Police looking for suspect in vehicle spray paintings

In totral, 17 vehicles spray painted over early hours of June 20

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Several vehicles were vandalized around Rockport with blue spray paint on the night of June 19 or morning of June 20. Photo courtesy Garrett Lee
Vandal spray paints multiple vehicles around Rockland

Residents discover lines of blue spray paint on vehicles morning of June 20.

Kaleb Robertson at bat during the 18UAAA North Island Cubs season opener against the Cowichan Valley Mustangs on June 19, 2021. Photo by Sean Feagan / Black Press Media.
PHOTOS: Minor baseball players and fans welcome return to play

18UAAA Cubs start regular season action after long wait with convincing win against Mustangs

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Bernadette Jordan addresses the media following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on January 14, 2019. Jordan says the government will provide $2 million to allow First Nations to continue to strengthen the marine safety system across Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
First Nations receive federal funds to purchase marine rescue boats

Quatsino, Heiltsuk, and Kitasoo First Nation’s among eight across Canada to receive funding

Most Read