The chairman of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), Osama Rabie, has defended the management of the grounding of the Ever Given and revealed that there was one death during the operation to free the vessel.
During a visit by Panama’s ambassador to Egypt, along with the director general of the Panamanian Maritime Authority (under whose flag the Ever Given is flagged), Admiral Rabie stated that the ship’s owner, Shoei Kisen, “did not show the due recognition it deserved, which did not reflect an understanding of the huge losses suffered by the authority due to the incident, which can be seen in the damage sustained by several participating marine units and in the sinking of one of SCA’s marine units during the salvage operations, resulting in the death of one of the participants in the salvage operations, as well as in the material and moral damage suffered by the reputation of the Suez Canal due to the suspension of shipping traffic.”
He also blamed the Japanese company for the subsequent detention of the vessel.
“We relied on the principle of good intentions when dealing with the shipowning company, as we responded to their request not to take immediate legal action, and waited for 11 days, during which we failed to reach an agreement commensurate with the losses suffered, forcing us to resort to the courts to legalize the situation of the vessel.”
He explained that the SCA’s initial claim of $916 million – described at the time by the ship’s insurer, the UK P&I Club, as “largely unsustainable” – came from its own estimate of the value of the cargo, containers and the ship itself, at $2 billion, because the shipowner “had no idea of the combined value of the goods.”
He confirmed that the SCA had reduced its claim to $550 million, and that an initial payment of $200 million would be sufficient to release the vessel.
Admiral Rabie added that part of the claim was a salvage premium, as under Egyptian law, “whoever performs any salvage work is entitled to receive a fair premium, and the remuneration is determined by the value of the ship and the value of the goods on board.”
Egyptian law also stipulates that any vessel is liable for any damage in the channel. The two SCA pilots on board the Ever Given at the time of the grounding were there “in an advisory capacity,” while the master retained ultimate control, he said.
An SCA spokesman added: “The SCA chairman stressed the invalidity of the allegations that the authority is responsible for the incident occurring for allowing the vessel to transit the canal in unfavorable circumstances; a claim that has nothing to do with the truth, as shipping traffic in the Suez Canal runs normally even during bad weather, which is what actually happened on the day of the incident.”
He added that 12 vessels in a northbound convoy had transited the canal without incident prior to Ever Given.