Is "Ever Given" Container Ship's Indian Crew At Fault For Blocking the Suez Canal?
Ever Given container ship that ran aground and blocked all shipping traffic through the Suez Canal, the busiest waterway in the world, has just been re-floated. The mega cargo ship's captain and the entire crew are Indian, the owners and shipbuilders are Japanese, the operator is German, the insurance company is British, the charterer is Taiwanese and the cargo is Chinese, according to media reports. The ship was reported blown aground by strong winds.
|Ever Given Stuck in Suez Canal. Source: Bloomberg|
The 200,000-ton, 1,312 ft-long, 175 ft-wide cargo ship got stuck in the Suez Canal last Tuesday. About 30% of global cargo ship traffic remained blocked with 50 ships added to the jam every day the vessel remained stuck, As of yesterday, there were $10 billion worth of goods with nowhere to go with more than 300 ships carrying products across multiple industries now stuck in the gridlock.
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Day and night, with international pressure bearing down, the dredgers dredged and the tugboats tugged.
But not until the seventh day, after the confluence of the full moon and the sun conjured an unusually high tide, did the ship wriggle free with one last heave shortly after 3 p.m., allowing the first of the roughly 400 ships waiting at either end of the canal to resume their journeys by Monday evening.
In the aftermath of one of the most consequential shipping accidents in history, the global supply chain industry will have a cascade of costly delays to contend with and much to assess: the size of container ships, the width of the Suez Canal, the wisdom of relying on just-in-time manufacturing to satisfy consumer demand around the world, and the role, if any, of human error.
But some things were out of anyone’s hands: If the wind and the tide might not be deemed acts of God by the insurance companies, they were a reminder that 21st-century commerce remains subject to random acts of nature.
“We’ve all seen the pictures and thought, ‘How on earth does that happen?’” said Emily Hannah Stausboll, a shipping analyst at BIMCO, a large international shipping association. “People in the industry are asking: Could it happen again? And if so, what do we do to avoid it happening for another week next time?”
The fact that the Ever Given blockage of the Suez Canal was resolved within a week does not mean an end to speculation about the sea routes.
The Israelis are promoting their projected Ben Gurion waterway as a rival to the Suez Canal.
They say that the distance between Eilat and the Mediterranean is not long, and is in fact similar to the distance of the Suez connection between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.
Tel Aviv plans to turn this canal into a multi-faceted project, in addition to having it play a commercial role challenging the Suez Canal.
It aims to build small towns, hotels, restaurants and nightclubs around the waterway.
Analysts say that the Egypt’s downplaying of the importance of the Israeli project does not conceal the risk it poses to the Suez Canal’s $6 billion annual revenues.
It is also possible that the alternative canal could win regional backing from countries such as Jordan, which is facing social and economic difficulties.
Amman may find in this project a way out of its crises after having failed to garner sufficient Arab support to shore up its economic situation.
It is not unlikely that the Israeli canal project will also win the approval of countries such as Saudi Arabia whose mega-project on the Red Sea, aims to turn the city of Neom into a tourist attraction.
The Saudi project may be a short distance away from the proposed Israeli southern end of the Ben Gurion canal at Eilat.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi sought to calm Egyptian fears about the alternatives that the world shippers could be compelled to seek after the Suez Canal blockage and the subsequent disruption that lasted for days.
“The Egyptians have succeeded in ending the crisis of the ship that ran aground in the Suez Canal, and brought things back to their normal course. This reassures the whole world about the transportation of its goods and its needs through this pivotal shipping artery,” Sisi said.
Sisi seemed to be hinting at the Ben Gurion Canal project, especially since Israel used the Suez Canal crisis to announce the start of work on its project.
This has increased the pressure on Cairo and pushed it to issue reassuring statements.
The idea of an Israeli canal linking the Mediterranean and the Red Sea is not new.
The US newspaper Business Insider published Thursday the content of a classified memo stating that the United States had studied a proposal to build an Israeli waterway to rival the Suez Canal by detonating nuclear bombs in the Negev desert decades ago.
According to the US 1963 memorandum, which was declassified in 1996, the plan would have meant the use of 520 nuclear bombs to carve for “excavation of Dead Sea canal across the Negev desert.”
It said that an “interesting application of nuclear excavation would be a sea-level canal 160 miles long across Israel.”
Bloomberg's Peter Robison reported on June 28 that Boeing and its suppliers outsourced some of its 737 Max software development and testing to temporary workers. These temp workers, some of whom were recent college graduates, were employees or contract workers for Indian tech firms HCL Technologies and Cyient Ltd.
Some of the testers and developers made as little as $9, the longtime engineers told Bloomberg. Former Boeing flight controls engineer Rick Ludtke said the move to outsource was centered on cost-cutting.
"Boeing was doing all kinds of things, everything you can imagine, to reduce cost, including moving work from Puget Sound, because we'd become very expensive here," Ludtke told Bloomberg. "All that's very understandable if you think of it from a business perspective. Slowly over time it appears that's eroded the ability for Puget Sound designers to design."
Papendrecht, 29 March 2021
Boskalis announces the successful salvage operation of the grounded 20,000 TEU container vessel Ever Given in the Suez Canal. With a length of 400 meters and a width of nearly 60 meters this giant ship had been wedged in this vital shipping route since 23 March 2021 blocking all shipping traffic ever since.
Peter Berdowski, CEO Boskalis: “Shortly following the grounding of the Ever Given we were requested through SMIT Salvage to provide assistance with the salvage operation. I am excited to announce that our team of experts, working in close collaboration with the Suez Canal Authority, successfully refloated the Ever Given on 29 March at 15:05 hrs local time, thereby making free passage through the Suez Canal possible again. I’m extremely proud of the outstanding job done by the team on site as well as the many SMIT Salvage and Boskalis colleagues back home to complete this challenging operation under the watchful eye of the world. The time pressure to complete this operation was evident and unprecedented and the result is a true display of our unique capabilities as a dredging and marine services provider.”
For the refloating of the 224,000-ton container vessel approximately 30,000 cubic meters of sand was dredged to help free the vessel and a total of eleven harbor tugs and two powerful seagoing tugs (Alp Guard and Carlo Magna) were deployed. The vessel is towed to a location outside the channel for further inspection.
The Indian crew of the giant boxship Ever Given are no longer stuck in the lower section of the Suez Canal, but they could get stuck in Egypt for a long time, according to the Times of India. It is possible that they may face house arrest or even criminal charges in connection with the vessel's grounding, which closed the canal for six days and disrupted billions of dollars in trade.
"There is a clear danger that the crew will be made scapegoats," an Indian shipping industry source told the outlet.
The 25-member crew is in good health but stressed by the experience of the grounding, according to the head of Indian seafarers' union NUSI, Abdulgani Serang. "They are not alone and we will support them whenever required in whatever manner required," Serang said.
The Egyptian government's lead investigator, Captain Sayed Sheasha, told Reuters on Wednesday that the Ever Given's master has fully cooperated with the inquiry.
The pressure on the investigation into the grounding is high. The chairman of the Suez Canal Authority has estimated the total economic damages from the casualty at about $1 billion, and affected shipping interests will be looking to recoup their losses via insurance claims and litigation. Ever Given's insurer, Lloyd's of London, is preparing for a "large loss" in the range of $100 million. The Suez Canal is already back up to full capacity and is running around the clock, but commercial disputes related to the shutdown are expected to last for years.
The Ever Given herself appears to have been largely spared. A dive inspection on Wednesday revealed a limited amount of damage to her bow, but no other obvious signs of harm, according to the AP.
Precedent for seafarer detention
In Egypt, officers aboard detained vessels have occasionally ended up under a status equivalent to house arrest, sometimes for years, according to the International Transport Workers' Federation.
Mohammad Aisha - the chief mate of the seized container feeder Aman - has been stuck on board his vessel at an anchorage off Suez since 2017. For four years, an Egyptian court has bound him to the ship as its designated "legal guard," and local authorities have confiscated his passport. He has been alone on board for the last 15 months, except for an occasional swim to shore for food and water, according to the ITF.
Aisha is not the only mariner trapped in Egypt by a local court order. The ITF is also attempting to win freedom for the captain of the freighter Kenan Mete. Like Aisha, the master has been designated as his vessel's "legal guard," and he has been forbidden to leave Egypt until the ship's case is resolved or another guardian is appointed.