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Ever Given and the Suez Canal

Fear for Indian seafarer families – Egypt seeks $1bn compensation to free Ever Given

Photo: SCA SCA_Ever_Given2.jpg
A view from the deck of a vessel assisting with efforts to free Ever Given.
There is fear among the families of 25 Indian crew on the container vessel Ever Given that their breadwinners may be stuck in Egypt for some time, as wrangling continues over a $1bn compensation demand by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA).

Last month, the giant containership had run aground diagonally across the southern section of the Suez canal, halting for over a week the Asia to Europe movement of around 370 vessels using the world’s busiest waterway

Egypt declared on 31 March that it would not release the vessel, currently anchored at the Great Bitter Lake for assessment of damage, until compensation was paid. The 20,000 teu container vessel owned by Japan’s Shoei Kisen Kaisha (SKKL), ans chartered by Evergreen Marine Corp of Taiwan.

 “We hope for a speedy agreement,” SCA chairman Osama Rabie declared on state-run television. “The minute they agree to compensation, the vessel will be allowed to move.” However, Rabie did not disclose the compensation amount, and said that they were in the middle of negotiations.

The SCA claim allegedly names the ship’s charterer, Evergreen, as the defendant, and makes all others who use the Suez Canal as co-litigants.

 A spokesperson of SKKL, the Japanese owner of the vessel, said they had not received any claims or lawsuits to seek compensation for damages from the blockage.

The Japanese company has also moved the London High Court to limit liability. Company spokesperson Ryu Murakoshi said that it was “part of the normal process of an insurance claim”, making it clear that the move was not an attempt to target anyone.

Seafarer association and unions have expressed concern about the sailors on board, who they fear could be trapped for a long time in case of a dispute. “The prospect of them being stuck gives us grave concern,” said Stephen Cotton, the secretary-general of the International Transport Workers Federation in London.

The Ever Given got stuck in the canal in high winds on 23 March, and was refloated on March 29 evening . 

Authorities engaged a complex salvage operation, with diggers working to remove parts of the canal’s bank and expand dredging close to the ship’s bow to a depth of 18 metres. At least 369 vessels were waiting to transit the canal when the blockage was cleared.

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