Suez Canal blames container ship grounding for high speed and size of rudder

ISMAILIA, Egypt – The container ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal in March was struggling to steer due to its high speed and the size of its rudder, and could have chosen not to enter the waterway in bad weather, the canal authority official said. Reuters.

The comments by the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), Osama Rabie, come on Thursday amid a dispute over compensation with the owner and insurers of the container ship Ever Given, which is detained by order of the court in the canal nearly two months after being dislodged.

The Ever Given got stuck across the canal in high winds on March 23, halting traffic in both directions and disrupting world trade.

A legal team for Japanese owner Shoei Kisen is challenging the detention of the vessel and the claim for compensation and said the SCA was responsible for allowing entry to the vessel and failing to provide tugs.

Rabie said the captain could have held the ship.

“He knows the capabilities of his ship…so he can come and say, ‘I don’t want to come in, I think the weather is not appropriate,’ he said in an interview at SCA headquarters in Ismailia.

Before running aground, the giant ship was cruising at about 25 kilometers per hour, well above the 8-9 km/h suitable for the canal’s narrow southern channel, Rabie said.

Due to the speed, two tugs accompanying the Ever Given were unable to assist.

“That speed was very high and the rudder was out of alignment,” he said. “There were a lot of technical flaws, among which the size of the rudder was not suitable for the size of the ship.”

A member of Shoei Kisen’s legal team told Reuters on Saturday that the authority had failed to prove any wrongdoing by the ship.

The SCA sought $916 million in compensation for the blockage in court, but later reduced its claim to $550 million, including a $200 million deposit to secure the ship’s release.

He says the owner offered $150 million in compensation. Shoei Kisen did not comment on the negotiation.

“We lowered our price by about 40% and also said we were going to make it easier for them, but honestly the offer they made is not up to the level we’re talking about,” Rabie said.

The SCA, which said it had suffered material and reputational losses, lowered the amount it was seeking after receiving an estimate of $775 million on the value of the Ever Given cargo, well below the $3 billion estimate she originally used, Rabie said. The ship’s value was $140 million, he said.

“Of course, it is illogical that the price of compensation you are asking for is higher than the price of the ship and the cargo,” he said.

A hearing on the compensation claim is scheduled for Saturday. Pending a court decision, only the court had the power to release the vessel or its cargo, Rabie said.

(Additional reporting by Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

Phorographer: In this photo released by the Suez Canal Authority, the container ship Ever Given sits with its bow stuck in the bank of the Suez Canal on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, after becoming stuck and blocking all traffic on the vital waterway. Photo credit: Suez Canal Authority via AP.


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