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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Indian crew on Suez ship; all safe: firm

The mammoth 400 m-long, 200,000-tonne vessel owned by Shoei Kisen of Japan and operated by the Taiwanese firm Evergreen Marine, ran aground reportedly due to “strong winds” and a sandstorm.

Written by MAYURA JANWALKAR | Panaji |
Updated: March 29, 2021 8:05:05 am
Suez CanalSatellite image from Maxar Technologies shows the ship stuck in the Suez Sunday. (AP)

All members of the crew on board the containership Ever Given, which is wedged diagonally in the Suez Canal in Egypt since March 23, are Indians, the maritime solutions provider in charge of technical management of the vessel said on Saturday.

“All 25 crew are safe and accounted for and they remain in good health and spirits. All crew are Indian nationals and remain onboard. They are working closely with all parties involved to re-float the vessel. The hard work and tireless professionalism of the Master and crew is greatly appreciated,” Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) said in a statement.

The mammoth 400 m-long, 200,000-tonne vessel owned by Shoei Kisen of Japan and operated by the Taiwanese firm Evergreen Marine, ran aground reportedly due to “strong winds” and a sandstorm. Efforts to dislodge and refloat the Ever Given had not been successful until Sunday.

The containership, one of the world’s largest, has almost entirely blocked the narrow channel, a crucial passage for maritime trade between Asia and Europe and one of the world’s busiest trade routes. Some 300 ships with an estimated $10 billion worth of goods remain stranded on both sides of the blockage.

Director General of Shipping Amitabh Kumar said since the crew on board the ship are safe, the intervention of the Directorate General of Shipping has not been sought. The impact of the incident will mostly be on trade, Kumar said.

“The crew is safe and sound. Only the ship is stuck. They are trying to work on removing the vessel. There should not be any problem as far as the crew is concerned. Seafarers are used to long voyages,” he said.

Abhijeet Sangle, working president of the All India Seafarers and General Workers Union said they had received information from BSM that the crew were safe, and going about performing their duties.

“We were informed by BSM that the 25 Indians on board are from different states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh… Three are from Mumbai, and some from North India,” Sangle told The Indian Express. He said that no family member of any of the seafarers had reached out for assistance since they were looked after on board. His union, Sangle said, was monitoring the situation.

In its statement, BSM said significant progress had been made on Friday night at the stern of the ship, and the vessel’s rudder had been released from the sediment. Eleven tugs had been at work throughout Saturday, alongside ongoing dredging operations, by which sand and mud continue to be removed from the port side of the vessel’s bow.

Two more tugs, one registered in the Netherlands and the other in Italy, were expected join the efforts to assist in the re-floating of the Ever Given, the company said.

According to BSM, at the time of the incident, the Ever Given was headed northward through the canal en route to Rotterdam, Netherlands, with two canal pilots on board. “Initial investigations suggest the vessel grounded due to strong wind… There have been no reports of pollution or cargo damage and initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding,” BSM said.

To deal with the possibility of bunching of vessels at ports in western India — especially JNPT, Mundra and Hazira — once traffic resumes at the Suez Canal, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways and Director General of Shipping have advised these ports to prepare a strategy to berth multiple vessels simultaneously.

Coastal shipping operators have been asked to keep feeder vessels ready to carry containers around the Indian coast if needed. Box operators have been asked to ensure there is no shortage of containers for the EXIM trade. The situation in the Suez and its impact on India is being monitored constantly, Kumar said.

Shipping industry sources said the blockage of one of the key global maritime commercial arteries was expected to greatly impact trade and shipping around the world. Unless the channel is opened up soon, ships will have to sail an extra seven-eight days to go all the way around Africa, which will raise costs sharply.

Prominent container shipping operator A.P. Møller-Mærsk informed its customers on March 24 that seven of its container vessels were affected by the incident, of which four were within the Suez Canal system, and the rest were waiting to enter the passage. “The incident continues to create long tailbacks on the waterway stopping vessels from passing and causing delays,” Mærsk said.

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