Report: Ever Given's Crew May Risk Arrest

Image courtesy Suez Canal Authority

Published Apr 1, 2021 12:56 AM by Paul Benecki

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.