Investigators in and under the massive container ship Ever Given intensified efforts Wednesday to determine what caused the vessel to run aground amid concerns the Indian crew could be blamed for the costly incident. Global economic losses from the shutdown have been estimated at up to $10 billion per day, prompting intense interest in determining the cause of the calamity – and anyone who could have been at fault.
David Heindel, chairman of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, cautioned against a “rush to judgment,” adding that the investigation should examine whether crew fatigue played a role. “Too often, seafarers are unfairly blamed for incidents at sea,” Heindel said. “When proper investigations are conducted we are able to stand back and see the systematic factors which drive bad outcomes.”
The Panamanian-flagged, Japanese-owned, Taiwanese-operated ship became caught in high winds and a sandstorm as it navigated a narrow stretch of the canal March 23. The 1,300-foot-long, 220,000-ton ship turned and the bow went aground on the canal’s eastern bank, the stern on the western bank. The incident halted more than 400 ships before the Ever Given ship was finally freed Monday with the aid of more than a dozen tugboats and favorable tides.
The chairman of the Egyptian-owned Suez Canal Authority has said the weather issues were not the main reasons the ship grounded. “There may have been technical or human errors,” Osama Rabie told reporters. “All of these factors will become apparent in the investigation.” The Indian government and its seafarer’s organizations fear the crew of 25 could be “made scapegoats,” the Times reported, citing a senior person associated with the nation’s shipping industry.
The National Union of Seafarers of India vowed solidarity with the crew. “We await the impartial inquiry to the incident,” Abdulgani Serang, the union’s general secretary, said in an email to USA TODAY. “In unflinching solidarity, NUSI stands behind the seafarers of Ever Given, in support whenever required and in whatever manner required.” Divers scouring the underside of the ship Wednesday found some damage to the bow but nothing sufficiently severe to cause the ship to become immobilized, officials said. The two senior canal officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters, told the Associated Press that “slight to medium” damage was found at the vessel’s bulbous bow.