Maersk Settles Lawsuit Over Ever Given's Suez Canal Shutdown

Ever Given aground
Image courtesy Suez Canal Authority

Published Dec 1, 2023 8:40 AM by The Maritime Executive

Maersk Group has decided to settle a lawsuit over the disruption caused by the grounding of the massive boxship Ever Given, which shut down the Suez Canal for six days in 2021. 

The number-two ocean carrier filed suit in Denmark against unspecified parties in connection with the grounding, and had sought damages of about $45 million. Danish outlet ShippingWatch confirmed Thursday that the lawsuit has ended with an out-of-court settlement. 

The Ever Given went aground in the Suez Canal on March 23, 2021, shortly after she entered the southern entrance. Her length exceeded the canal's width, and with bow and stern firmly wedged in each bank, she blocked the waterway to all marine traffic. 

For the complex salvage operation, the Suez Canal Authority brought in shore-based excavating equipment, cutter suction dredgers and at least 10 tugs. With much effort, the ship was finally refloated on March 29. The event made global headlines and put shipping in the spotlight, providing consumers with a rare direct example of how maritime commerce can affect their daily lives. 

Over the course of the six-day shutdown, up to 400 ships had their voyages disrupted by the shutdown of the canal, including 50 boxships with connections to Maersk.  In response, Maersk sued shipowner Shoei Kisen Kaisha and operator Evergreen at Denmark’s Maritime and Commercial Court for damages from the disruption.

Evergreen denied responsibility for the incident. “As Ever Given is leased by Evergreen under the terms of a time-charter agreement, all expenses for the refloating operation and any liabilities are the responsibility of the vessel’s owner," the firm said in a statement after the suit was filed. 

The case's progress was closely watched in the liner shipping world, as a win for Maersk could provide a blueprint for other affected carriers to file similar claims. On Thursday, Maersk confirmed that it has withdrawn the lawsuit, following news of a settlement agreement. 

Boskalis, owner of salvor SMIT Salvage, filed suit in a London court earlier this year seeking compensation from Shoei Kisen Kaisha for its role in freeing the stranded ship. According to the FT, the estimated value of the Ever Given job was in the range of $25-50 million.

SMIT has continued to work with Shoei Kisen Kaisha: the salvor played a role in the response to the burning car carrier Fremantle Highway, which caught fire off the coast of the Netherlands in July.