In a major setback for the Indian crew of the Suez Canal grounded ship Ever Given, a local court in Egypt has upheld the Suez Canal Authority’s decision to detain the ship and its crew for compensation.
The Japanese shipping company who owns the vessel had appealed against the SCA’s move in a local court in Ismailia hoping to get some relief. However, the court had decided in favour of SCA and rejected the appeal, pushing the next hearing to May 22nd.
Meanwhile, the SCA has allowed 3 crew members to go back home to India as their contracts expired. 3 new seafarers from India have replaced them now.
The Suez Canal Authorities had made it clear that the crew members are free to leave only when there’s enough crew on the ship along with the captain. So, the replacement had to happen. The new crew have been tested according to the covid protocol and found to be negative. They have been put in quarantine cabins for the next 7 days according to covid protocol.
The minimum workforce requirement to set sail once the legal dispute is cleared would be to have all 25 crew present onboard the vessel. Earlier in April, 2 crew had been relieved on personal grounds.
The SCA has demanded 916$ million as compensation from the Japanese company Shoei Kisen Kaisha and the Taiwanese charterer Evergreen. The compensation includes the salvage cost of the vessel and the loss of transit revenue incurred by the Canal Authorities.
The ship had run aground on 23rd March and had been reported on 29th March with the help of a dozen of tugs. The ship management company Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), who has been managing the vessel has revealed that no pollution or damage or mechanical failure was cited in the initial report to validate the claim.
As such the shipowner and the other parties involved in the matter have refused to pay the exorbitant compensation amount.
Meanwhile, seafarers unions in India have sounded the alarm bell saying that the seafarers are being held ransom for compensation and there have been examples of going this badly. The ship has been impounded in the Great Bitter Lake, outside the canal since 13th April.
BSM had revealed earlier that the crew is safe and conducting the day-to-day operations of the vessel in good spirits. Routine fire checks and safety drills have been performed regularly along with regular maintenance work.
Ian Beveridge the CEO of BSM has repeatedly said that their priority is the safety and well being of the crew and they have been in touch with the seafarers and their families. The company has extended all possible support to the crew.
The whole crew have internet and other communication access to connect with their families. They have been given their full wages and an adequate supply of food and water.
Even visitors have been given to visit the crew. ITF representatives had visited the crew back on April 18th. Meanwhile, the Mission for Seafarers has been providing emotional and spiritual support to the crew.