UK P&I: Pilots, VTS Had Control Over Ever Given's Speed

Ever Given aground (image courtesy SCA)

Published Jun 3, 2021 10:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Thursday, insurer UK P&I Club pushed back against recent claims by the Suez Canal Authority regarding the vessel's speed and the master's maneuvering decisions. In particular, UK Club asserted that the Suez Canal Authority's pilots and traffic management services exert a measure of control over marine traffic within the waterway. 

"It is important to clarify that whilst the master is ultimately responsible for the vessel, navigation in the Canal transit within a convoy is controlled by the Suez Canal pilots and SCA vessel traffic management services. Such controls include the speed of the transit and the availability of escort tugs," said UK P&I. 

Last week, SCA Chairperson Osama Rabie told Reuters that Ever Given was making about 13.5 knots prior to the grounding, not the "normal" rate of about five knots. 

At a press conference on Sunday, the Suez Canal's chief investigator asserted that the Ever Given's master swerved to each side of the canal. The investigator, Sayed Sheisha, noted that the master issued a series of eight commands in 12 minutes while navigating the narrow, 1,000-foot-wide channel. He asserted that the captain put on more turns in an attempt to maneuver, then lost control and went aground on the east bank of the canal. 

SCA is seeking compensation totaling $550 million for the vessel's salvage, lost canal transit revenue, damage to the canal's banks and "reputational damage" due to the six-day grounding and traffic shutdown. The agency has obtained a court order allowing it to seize the Ever Given until this unusual fine is paid, and its negotiations with UK P&I and shipowner Shoei Kisen Kaisha continue. 

Shoei Kisen Kaisha asserts that the grounding was an accident caused by high winds, in line with the SCA's own initial statements