The pilots and crew onboard the massive container ship that blocked the Suez Canal could face arrest and be ‘made scapegoats’ for the incident as investigators continue to search for the cause of the grounding that strangled global trade.
Union officials fear the 25-man Indian crew onboard the 220,000-ton Ever Given, which found itself wedged across the crucial waterway in Egypt last Tuesday, will fall under increasing scrutiny from the Suez Canal Authority, with claims that the workers could soon be placed under house arrest until the investigation is completed.
Egyptian maritime officials are expected to seize the Suez Canal crew as they carry out their probe, with one expert telling Indian media that investigators would listen to recordings of mariners’ conversations in the lead-up to the blockage.
Investigators will also question the two Egyptian pilots who were aboard the Ever Given as canal chiefs look at the possibility of ‘human error’.
However the Indian government and the Indian seafarers’ organisations fear the crew could face criminal negligence charges and jail sentences for the six-day blockage, which held up an estimated £6.5 billion in global trade every day.
‘There is a clear danger that the crew will be made scapegoats,’ a senior member of the shipping industry said.
The pilots and crew onboard the 220,000-ton Ever Given could be arrested and ‘made scapegoats’ for the container ship’s grounding, it has been claimed.
The ship was pulled up the waterway on Monday afternoon and opened the door for billions of dollars’ worth of goods to resume their progress through the canal.
Salvage teams celebrated as they pulled the Ever Given towards the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water where Egyptian authorities say the ship will undergo technical inspections
Meanwhile Captain Sanjay Parashar, a member of India’s National Shipping Board (NSB), said: ‘Firstly, it has to be ascertained as to how the giant ship ran aground.
‘Facts can be checked by examining and listening to conversations in the ship voyage data recorder; one can then come to an understanding as to what caused the mishap.’
The ship’s Japanese owner has said that it would be part of the investigation but refused to discuss possible causes of the accident, including the vessel’s alleged high speed.
It comes after photos and tracking sites showed the Panama-flagged Ever Given being pulled up the waterway on Monday afternoon, opening the door for billions of dollars’ worth of goods to resume their progress through the canal.
Salvage teams were blaring their foghorns in celebration as they pulled the Ever Given towards the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water where Egyptian authorities say the ship will undergo technical inspections.
Egypt’s president Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi had earlier declared that ‘Egyptians have succeeded in ending the crisis’ despite the operation’s ‘massive technical complexity.’
But it was unclear how long it would take to deal with the backlog, with the world’s largest container firm, Denmark’s Maersk, warning that ‘it could take six days or more for the complete queue to pass’.
Yesterday trapped container ships were seen snaking their way through a newly unblocked Suez Canal as the week-long crisis on the waterway reached its end.
Vessels anchored for nearly a week were sailing up the narrow passageway where the 220,000-ton Ever Given had been wedged since last Tuesday, causing a massive traffic jam that strangled global trade.
Easing tailbacks to the north and south, 113 ships were due to navigate the unblocked section of canal by 8am local time on Tuesday, Suez Canal Authority chief Osama Rabie told reporters.
He praised the speed of the salvage operation on the MV Ever Given as ‘record-breaking’, claiming it would have taken three months anywhere else in the world.
Canal services provider Leth Agencies said the 1,300ft Ever Given had been ‘safely escorted to Great Bitter Lake’ by the authority, which said it was now ‘anchored’ ahead of an investigation and out of the path of other ships.
The bow of the Ever Given was finally dislodged from the channel’s bank on Monday and towed up the waterway after tugboats had straightened the vessel in an early-morning operation and dredgers had vacuumed away large chunks of sand.
‘The relief is palpable that we won’t see a long-term closure of what is an important trade route,’ said market analyst Michael Hewson at CMC Markets UK.
But Guy Platten, the secretary-general of the International Chamber of Shipping, told BBC Radio 4 that legal issues arising from the blockage could last for months as people try to recover the cost of delayed or expired goods.
The Liberian-flagged container ship YM Fountain was among those to sail up the narrow section of the Suez Canal which had previously been blocked by the Ever Given in a damaging six-day stoppage.
The US-flagged Maersk Denver was also navigating the canal piled high with containers as traffic resumed a week after the Ever Given blockage which caused a traffic jam of more than 400 vessels on the busy waterway.
Egyptian canal authorities said more than 100 ships were due to navigate the unblocked section of canal by 8am on Tuesday, carrying billions of dollars’ worth of goods out of a traffic jam
Ships pass through the Suez canal for first time in nearly a week