Investigation into the Suez Canal Blockage Begins
On March 30, experts boarded the massive container ship that had blocked Egypt’s crucial Suez Canal and suspended global trade for nearly a week, looking for answers to a single question that could have billions of legal consequences: What actually happened?
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About 300 vessels transporting everything from cattle to crude oil were still waiting for their turn in a day-long operation as ship convoys resumed movement through the artery linking the Mediterranean and Red Seas, according to a canal service provider.
Egyptian politicians, insurers, shippers, and others were all waiting for more information about what caused the Ever Given to become clamped across the canal on March 23.
There could be significant damage to the ship, warned Captain John Konrad, the founder, and CEO of gcaptain.com (a shipping news website).
The ship’s center rose and fell with the tide over its 400-meter (quarter-mile) length, bending up and down under the immense weight of about 20,000 containers. Much of the weight was moved to the ship’s bow when employees partly submerged it on Monday.
Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the ship’s owner, said on Tuesday that the company, along with other parties, would be a part of the investigation. It declined to comment on potential causes of the grounding, such as the ship’s speed and the strong winds that buffeted it during a sandstorm, citing an ongoing investigation. Initial reports also claimed the ship had experienced a “blackout,” which the ship’s technical manager refuted.
Any damage to the ship is thought to be mainly on its keel. It was unclear if the ship would be repaired on the spot in Egypt or elsewhere, or if it would eventually return to its original destination of Rotterdam. According to the company, the operator, not the shipowner, will make a decision.
Maritime trade has been halted by the ship’s grounding, which cost billions of dollars a day. Analysts estimate that clearing the backlog would take at least another ten days, though Egypt’s president said, on Tuesday, that it will only take three. Shippers’ injuries, as well as any actual injury to the vessel, are likely to result in legal action. “We anticipate a detailed investigation will follow which will determine the cause. Evidently, the cause will impact the legal liabilities of
the ship and cargo interests,” the firm said.
On Tuesday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi visited the canal city of Ismailia in order to express gratitude to everyone who assisted in the vessel’s release.