All 25 Indian crew members on board the 2 lakh-tonne cargo vessel- Ever Given are in ‘good health’ and ‘won’t be replaced for now’, said authorities. Members of the containership were stranded after it wedged diagonally in the Suez Canal in Egypt since March 23.
The ship will now sail to Rotterdam (Europe’s largest seaport) if it is found fit on full inspection at Egypt’s great bitter lake, an official added. A Times of India report stated that the German Company Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) which manages the Panama-registered Japanese shipping company Shoei Kisen Kaisha-owned 400-meter long cargo vessel said, “the crew was safe and in good health.. Their hard work and tireless professionalism are greatly appreciated.”
However, both the Indian government and the seafarers’ organisations are concerned about the legal issues that the crew may face, including the possibility of criminal charges. A TOI report quoted sources saying that they could be placed under house arrest until an investigation is completed into the cause of the accident. The ship management, however, has not explained anything about the legal procedures the crew will have to go through. “There is a clear danger that the crew will be made scapegoats,” a senior person associated with the shipping industry told Times of India.
Directorate General of shipping Amitabh Kumar told TOI, “As there is no harm to the Indian crew, there is no reason for us to intervene right now. As per the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), any vessel that has met with an accident has to be investigated, as per its convention. This is called ‘casualty investigation’.”
However, a similar investigation will be conducted on this vessel, like a fact-finding inquiry. The report is normally submitted by the flag state and If we receive any complaint from the company that the inquiry is not impartial, then, of course, we will intervene, but so far we have not received any such complaint, he added.
Reportedly, Abhijeet Sangle, working president of the All India Seafarers and General Workers Union, said the “BSM, which has its branch in Andheri (Mumbai), informed us that of the 25 crew members, three are from Mumbai, some are from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and some from north India. However, the company did not disclose the names of the captain or other crew for security reasons.”
“The company told us that a full inspection of the ship, including its hull and engine, and its cargo is currently on. If the ship is found fit, then the vessel with the same crew will move to its next destination to Rotterdam without any further delay,” he added.
The company, with help from the canal authority, will then scan the ship passage through the Suez Canal to check what led to the accident, he emphasised.
Nearly a week ago, the skyscraper-sized Ever Given got stuck sideways in the crucial waterway, creating a massive traffic jam. The obstruction has held up $9 billion each day in global trade and strained supply chains already burdened by the coronavirus pandemic. At least 367 vessels, carrying everything from crude oil to cattle, were still waiting to pass through the canal, while dozens more were taking the alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip, adding some two weeks to journeys and threatening delivery delays.
The unprecedented shutdown has threatened to disrupt oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East and raised fears of extended delays, good shortages and rising costs for consumers.