Egypt has begun a formal investigation into how a giant container ship blocked the Suez Canal and disrupted global trade for almost a week.
The Suez Canal Authority began an investigation into the causes of the delinquency of the Ever Given giant ship in the canal, causing its closure and disrupting navigation for about a week.
The investigations include the ship’s crew, or anyone on board, and is expected to last between seven to ten days.
Suez Canal Authority (SCA) adviser Sayed Sheisha said experts would board the Ever Given to obtain data relevant to the incident. The probe will examine the vessel’s seaworthiness and the crew’s actions.
Mr. Sheisha told Reuters news agency that the captain of the Ever Given as well as the ship’s Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha, had expressed their readiness to co-operate fully with the investigation into the grounding.
However, the SCA adviser complained in an interview with Egypt’s ON TV on Tuesday that the vessel had failed to respond to an emailed request for it to send over all relevant documents.
The SCA advisor, who is one of those charged with investigating the ship delinquency, explained in separate TV statements that if the ship refuses to respond to investigations, the investigations will turn into a civil case, and in this case, the ship and its contents will be seized pending conclusion of investigations, while litigation period may extend to about two years.
The vessel’s technical managers, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, said on Monday that its initial investigations suggested it had veered off course due to strong wind. They also ruled out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause.
However, SCA chairman Osama Rabie believes the impact of the wind was not the main reason for the incident, and that “technical or human errors” may have been to blame.
“The Suez Canal has never been closed because of bad weather,” he told reporters on Monday.
He also denied size was a factor, saying “larger ships” had used the waterway.
SCA Chairman Osama Rabie indicated in televised statements that there was “failure to respond” to the SCA’s requests submitted to the ship and to the two companies that own and operate it.
Rabie said that the authority will conduct a comprehensive examination of the vessel during the investigation period.
Mr. Rabie, a former head of Egypt’s navy, has also stated that the two Egyptian canal pilots who were on board the Ever Given to guide it through the canal were not to blame, saying they were of a “senior level and highly competent”.
The results of the investigation could have major legal repercussions, as various parties seek to recoup the costs of the repairs to the ship and the canal, as well as the salvage operation.
There are also likely to be claims from the owners of the cargo on the Ever Given and of the other ships that have been delayed for losses related to perishable goods and supply chain disruptions. The blockage held up an estimated $9.6bn (£7bn) of goods each day.
Shoei Kisen Kaisha reportedly has $3bn (£2.2bn) of liability insurance in place through protection and indemnity clubs.
The chairman of Lloyd’s of London said on Wednesday that the blockage would result in a “large loss” for the leading insurance market. Bruce Carnegie-Brown told Reuters it could amount to $100m (£73m) or more.
Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, said it would take some time for the industry to recover from the blockage.
“They are trying to rush ships through the canal, which will have knock-on effects at the ports that are their destinations because they will be congested. So it will mean delays there,” he told the BBC.
“It’s also about where assets are placed around the world. We know that China, for example, is short of empty boxes [containers] to be filled because they are being delayed as well.
“All of this will ripple through the supply chain,” Mr. Platten warned.
The Ever Given has been anchored in the Great Bitter Lake, the canal’s midway point, since being refloated on Monday.
The 400m-long (1,312ft), 220,000-tonne ship became wedged diagonally across the waterway on 23 March after running aground amid high winds and a sandstorm that affected visibility.
It was freed after a major salvage operation involving a flotilla of powerful tug boats and dredging vessels that shifted an estimated 30,000 cubic meters (1.1m cubic ft) of mud and sand.
More than 160 ships have passed through the canal since it was unblocked, as the SCA attempts to clear a traffic jam of 292 vessels waiting to the north and south, according to services provider Leth Agencies.
About 12% of global trade passes through the 193km (120-mile) canal, which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea and provides the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe.
Egypt expects $1 billion in damages
Egypt expects more than $1 billion in compensation after a cargo ship blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week, blocking all traffic.
Egypt is expecting more than $1 billion in compensation after a cargo ship blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week, according to the top canal official. He also warned the ship, and its cargo will not be allowed leave Egypt if the issue of damages goes to court.
Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, said in a phone interview with a pro-government TV talk show last Wednesday that the amount takes into account the salvage operation, costs of stalled traffic, and lost transit fees for the week that the Ever Given had blocked the Suez Canal.
“It’s the country’s right,” Rabie said, without specifying who would be responsible for paying the compensation. He added that in the past, canal authorities and the ship’s owners have had a good relationship.
The massive cargo ship is currently in one of the canal’s holding lakes, where authorities and the ship’s managers say an investigation is ongoing.
On Thursday, the ship’s technical managers, Bernard Schulte Shipmanagement, said in an email to The Associated Press that the ship’s crew was cooperating with authorities in their investigation into what led to the vessel running aground. They said that Suez Canal Authority investigators have been given access to the Voyage Data Recorder, also known as a vessel’s black box.
Rabie also said that if an investigation went smoothly and the compensation amount was agreed on, then the ship could travel on without problems.
However, if the issue of compensation involved litigation, then the Ever Given and its some $3.5 billion worth of cargo would not be allowed to leave Egypt, he told the show’s host.
Litigation could be complex, since the vessel is owned by a Japanese firm, operated by a Taiwanese shipper, and flagged in Panama.