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Ever Given crew stranded in Egypt, court upholds detention

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The all-Indian crew of the giant container ship Ever Given remain stranded in Egypt after a local court in nearby Ismailia rejected an appeal by the owner and upheld the detention order issued by the Suez Canal Authority seeking compensation.

According to Bloomberg, the decision was announced on Tuesday, and another hearing has been set for May 22.

Three crew members were relieved and allowed to return home to India on Tuesday after their work contracts expired. They have been replaced by three new seafarers, also from India, who have tested negative for Covid-19 and will remain in quarantine in their cabins for seven more days.

The crew of 25 will stay on board the impounded vessel, as the minimum workforce required to sail again if a solution is found in the legal tussle.

Two other members were allowed to leave in early April due to personal reasons.

The Egyptian authorities seek $916 mln in damages from the Japanese Shoei Kisen Kaisha and charterers, Evergreen Line of Taiwan, after the 20,000 container capacity vessel ran aground on March 23 while northbound halfway through the Suez Canal en route to Rotterdam.

The vessel was safely re-floated on March 29 after a massive international effort that included dredging the canal where it got stuck on the banks of the waterway, causing a build-up of several hundred cargo and other vessels on either side of the Suez Canal.

The SCA’s compensation claim includes losses of transit fees, damage to the waterway during the dredging and salvage efforts, equipment and labour costs.

The Limassol-based manager of the ship, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), said after the vessel was unstuck, “there were no reports of pollution or cargo damage, and initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding.”

SKK refuses to pay the compensation, alleging that the SCA couldn’t validate the claim with enough proof and data.

Crew can come and go

The head of the Suez Canal Authority has denied that the crew members of the Ever Given were unable to leave the ship and that crew members were allowed to come and go — with some exceptions.

An Indian seafarers’ union representative warned against them being “held to ransom” in the dispute, a situation not uncommon for mariners whose ships are caught in legal trouble.

The ship remains impounded in the canal’s halfway holding area known as the Great Bitter Lake since April 13.

Earlier, BSM said in a statement that all 25 Indian crew members “are safe, in good health and good spirits.

“Day-to-day operations onboard the vessel continue with the seafarers aboard conducting routine fire and safety drills alongside ongoing planned vessel maintenance.”

“Our utmost priority remains the safety and wellbeing of our crew. We are in regular contact with them and their families, offering all necessary support,” said BSM’s CEO Ian Beveridge.

BSM said all crew members have full internet access and can communicate with their families; they are supplied with food and water and paid in full.

They were visited on April 18 by representatives from the International Transport Workers Federation and the Mission for Seafarers to provide emotional and spiritual support to those onboard.