With the Ever Given still “legally” stuck in the Great Bitter Lakes in Suez Canal, discussions and concerns have turned to various other issues relating to the cargo, the ship’s crew and General Average.
The Ever Given, owned by Shoei Kisen Kaisha of Japan and operated by Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine Corp (EMC), is crewed by 25 Indian nationals who are all stuck on board the ship waiting for further information and/or action.
Ever since the Ever Given was freed from the banks of the Suez Canal, there has been murmurs about punitive action against the crew which has also been the subject of many discussions, especially in the wake of ship Captains being held personally responsible for other maritime disasters in the recent past.
The “arrest” of the ship by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) which intends to recover losses of around $916 million including $300 million for salvage bonus and $300 million for loss of reputation, has further complicated life for the ship’s crew who must have been having anxious moments no doubt.
It has been reported however that 2 of the crew members have been permitted to leave the vessel to go back to India due to extenuating personal circumstances.
While consenting on the request for the 2 crew members to be signed off the ship, SCA’s Chairman and Managing Director Osama Rabie is reported to have said that “the investigation related to the grounding of the Panama-flagged vessel was continuing alongside negotiations with the ship owing company as well as the insurance company to reach a convenient agreement for all parties”.
The SCA commented that it was “putting all efforts to guarantee the success of the negotiations and co-operate to fulfil all the needs of the crew of the impounded vessel at the Great Bitter Lakes zone until the completion of the investigations.”
In the meantime, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that EMC are exploring the possibility of offloading and removing some of the containers from the ship which is under General Average to other ships.
As per WSJ, the pressure brought on by the customers of over 18,000+ TEUs on board the ship has necessitated the consideration of transferring containers from the Ever Given to other ships.
However, this will be easier said than done because the transfer at sea will require container ships that have its own gears in order to lock, lift, transfer and stow the containers.
Generally, such geared vessels are not as high as the Ever Given which is a gearless vessel and stands around 57m from the water.
The cranes from the smaller ships may not reach the containers on board the Ever Given and such operation on board a ship which is literally in the middle of the lake will require a lot of coordination and expertise which could be a slow, elaborate and painful process (if it ever happens).
The closest option would be to move the ship to Port Said where it may be possible to unload the containers, but this depends on the legal wrangle that is ongoing between the SCA, Shoei Kisen Kaisha and UK P&I Club.
Against this background, Evergreen is reportedly checking the possibilities that the Egyptian courts would consider treating the vessel and cargo separately so at least the cargo can be released to its owners.
In the meantime, customers of Evergreen and its other alliance partners are querying the status of their boxes as they await further information on the General Average from the GA adjusters Richard Hogg Lindley who have been appointed by the owners Shoei Kisen Kaisha.
The process of General Average is quite elaborate and cumbersome involving the Adjusters collecting information about the customers, documentation required to ascertain the value of the goods, and execute an average bond which has to be paid by the customers before the cargo is released.
With the industry and particularly shippers reeling from capacity constraints, congestion and extraordinary freight rates, the aftermath of the blockage caused by the Ever Given has resulted in a cumulative delay of 1,017 days in both directions with a reported 1.9 million TEU of capacity involved in the incident as per supply chain visibility company project44.