CAIRO, EGYPT: According to a lawyer defending the owner of the cargo ship that blocked the Suez Canal in March, the canal authority was to blame for the vessel's grounding. The owner is refuting the vessel's suspension and the reimbursement demand by the Suez Canal Authority.
On 23rd March 2021, a container ship of20,000 TEU capacity, Ever Given, owned by Evergreen Marine Corp. (Headquarters: Taiwan) ran aground in the Suez Canal, Egypt at around 0800 hours local time.
Suez Canal has been one of the busiest shipping lanes connecting Asia and Europe in the shortest path. The Ever Given found herself diagonally wedged across its southern section.
For almost a week the mountainous container ship remained stuck in the Suez Canal, blocking the path of several vessels behind her.
After its rescue, the ship has been held between two sections of the canal at a lake as the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) is holding a lawsuit of $ 916 million against the Japanese owner Shoei Kisen.
On Saturday, an appellate court at Ismailia Economic Court heard arguments about the ship's seizure, which the SCA is trying to uphold. The owner of the Japanese ship filed an appeal following the ship's detention. On the other hand, the court also heard SCA's financial assertion.
Lawyers for Shoei Kisen argued that the SCA was at fault for allowing the ship to reach the waterway in poor weather. Ahmed Abu Ali, a member of the legal team, added that the authority was unable to show any fault on the ship's part.
Recordings from the ship submitted to the court revealed differences between SCA pilots and its control center about whether the ship could enter the canal, according to Abu Ali.
The ship should have been followed by at least two tug boats necessary for the ship's size, according to Shoei Kisen's lawyers, "but this didn't happen," he said.
The SCA did not answer requests for comment immediately but rejected officially the fact that it was responsible.
Shoei Kisen’s lawyers have argued that Ever Given's arrest was morally defective and that the work to release the ship was not "a salvage (operation) in the correct legal sense," suggesting that SCA was unable to claim liability for the operation.
In a TV interview on Sunday, the SCA's president proposed that the canal would consider a reduced amount of $550 million, down from the $600 million he had suggested earlier this month for an out-of-court settlement.
SCA Chairman Osama Rabie said that a deposit of $200 million will provide for the release of the ship and that the remainder could be paid separately.
According to Ahmed Abu Ali, the Ismailia court on Sunday referred the matter back to a court of the first instance, which will hear it on May 29.
Ahmed Abu Shanab, another lawyer defending the owner, stated that any decision taken by the lower court could trigger an appeal, and thereby, the legal dispute could continue.
Following Sunday's decision, the SCA stated that it bears no liability for Ever Given's grounding, reiterating that responsibility rested solely with the ship's master, and rebutting claims raised by Shoei Kisen's legal team the day before.
It also detailed its $916 million lawsuits, noting the expenses of releasing the ship and a salvage bonus mandated by maritime law, as well as material and reputational losses and the diversion of several ships away from the canal.
Moreover, during the operation to free the boats, one boat sank, taking the life of a worker, according to the SCA.