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Damning report emerges of the pilots onboard the Ever Given

Bickering Egyptian pilots have been blamed for this year’s most high profile shipping casualty.

As preparations get underway to get the giant 20,388 teu Ever Given moving again, three months after its dramatic grounding in the Suez Canal, reports have emerged of what happened on the fateful day of its stormy transit through the key waterway linking Europe with Asia.

Bloomberg Businessweek reporters have been in court listening to the proceedings between the Suez Canal Authority and the Japanese owner of the Ever Given. Yesterday the magazine published an in-depth, 6,000 word article looking at how the Shoei Kisen-owned ship become lodged across the canal for six days in March.

Based on testimonies from multiple court hearings in Egypt, the two pilots from the Suez Canal Authority onboard the Ever Given do not come out of the article at all well.

The Wall Street Journal suggests the preliminary deal calls for about $200m in compensation

Splash reported on Wednesday that an agreement in principle has been reached over a compensation claim between the SCA and Shoei Kisen. No dollar figure has been made public, nor an official timeframe for the ship’s departure. The Wall Street Journal suggested the preliminary deal calls for about $200m in compensation, while in a televised interview on Thursday night, SCA chairman Osama Rabie said he believed an agreement could be reached within 15 days.

“It may take some further time for the agreement to be concluded, for the vessel to be released from arrest and prepared for onward transit,” ship operator Evergreen Line said in a statement.

The ship was arrested on April 13 and has remained at anchor on the Great Bitter Lake ever since.

Claims adjuster WK Webster suggested in an update this week: “We can expect that the final settlement agreement will be concluded shortly which should then permit the vessel to continue upon its intended voyage and finally allow Cargo Interests to take delivery of their long-awaited cargoes. It is anticipated that once the vessel departs the Great Bitter Lake, the sailing time to Rotterdam, the next scheduled port of call, will be 9/10 days.”

While the SCA has been at pains to lay the blame on the ship and its crew, yesterday’s Businessweek article paints a very different picture of the moments leading up to its grounding.

The ship entered the canal in stormy conditions, with strong winds. A seafarer who was on a ship further ahead in the convoy told Splash that he experienced gusts of wind that day of up to 50 knots. The master of an LNG carrier the day prior had taken the decision to delay transiting, fearful of the inclement conditions.

A few kilometres into Ever Given’s transit, placed 13th in the 20-ship convoy, the 400 m long ship veered from port to starboard and back again. In response, according to court documents seen by Businessweek, the lead SCA pilot instructed the helmsman to steer hard right, then hard left.

“The Ever Given‘s vast hull took so long to respond that by the time it began to move, he needed to correct course again. When the second pilot objected, the two argued,” the article states.

The lead pilot then gave a new order: “Full ahead.” The ship sped up to 13 knots, five knots faster than the canal’s recommended speed limit. The two pilots continued to argue, with the lead pilot even threatening to leave the ship.

The increase in power created unforeseen problems in the shape of what is known as Bernoulli’s principle, whereby a fluid’s pressure goes down when its speed goes up. The ship’s prow ended up lodged on the right bank of the canal, thrusting shipping into the mainstream media for the following week.

As the two SCA pilots readied to leave the ship in the wake of the accident, the pilots were heard to still be arguing between themselves.

“These vessels are not supposed to enter,” the lead pilot said.

“Why did you let it enter?” his colleague responded.

The lawyer representing the ship’s owner submitted recordings from the Ever Given‘s voyage data recorder into evidence.

The SCA, for its part, continues to deny its pilots were to blame for the accident.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. The VDR, the seafarer’s and ship owner’s friend! It is just typical of the Suez Canal Authority to CAUSE an incident through two of their employees, the pilots and then try to blame other parties, i.e. the ship and her crew.I transited Suez many times during my sea-going career, and I was NEVER surprised by the shenanigans of the pilots, tugs, boat crews. Every time someone would try to “screw us over” for more cigarettes and/or bottles. The level of competence was always very low. God knows how they manage to get ships through nowadays, given the size of modern box boats etc. It is the Master of Ever Given I feel sorry for. I suspect the situation became unsaveable quite quickly. And the SCA have the AUDACITY to try to screw the Owners over??? Hopefully the SCA will end up with what they deserve, i.e. NOTHING and the Owners and Insurers take the SCA to every possible court to sue THEM for the delays, cargo spoilages etc etc.

  2. Why did it take so long to come out. Post incidence, VDR record would have been the first to be extracted as it has a life of only 12 hrs. Audio recording would have been the easiest & fastest to be analyzed.

    1. In terms of coming out publicly I’d guess it was to prevent prejudicing the court case. Things get complicated quickly when played out in the public arena.

  3. I am glad the Ever Given agreed to a paltry $200 million in compensation FROM the SCA as it sends a message without crippling an organization that is a necessary evil for transit through the Suez Canal. Captains of ships passaging the canal should have the right to throw incompetent Pilots off their ships and request a suitable replacement; this might have the desired effect of grooming a pool of professional Pilots since only the competent would end up working.

    1. They didnt get to agreement yet on the figure With this finding on the pilots mis-action.

      Dont think they are required to pay any but perhaps get back whats due.

  4. The Suez Pilot’s have notoriously been among the most corrupt in the world. Having sailed Master numerous times through the canal, I can attest to losing my place in line and delays from our non-corrupt policy over cigarettes are booze. I was once told to go to anchor by the Pilot for 3 days with another company because he only received 1 carton of Marboro Reds. They should fire the entire lot and hire foreign Pilots from Europe or wherever. The efficiency would improve 20% and benefit the country greatly. You don’t see these problems in the Panama Canal or US. The Suez Pilots are an embarrasment to the profession and to Egypt. It’s too bad Israel doesn’t control the canal.

  5. I just got fined with 2000$ because a 75 yr old pilot did not want to use the combination ladder. The 3m to climb onto the pilotladder before stepping over to the gangway were too high for him. …

  6. As a master , I will start to look for the root causes . The report indicates an important decision from LNG master to postpone his ship transit because of the wind speed , it’s the whole industry standard which support safety over commercial issues . This is not the case in the container industry, profit and commercial pressure have the upper hand in taking discussions and it’s usually lead to a chain of errors and then accidents such as Ever Given ,the lower profit margin reflect in compromising the safety of operation in general and the the safety of navigation in particular , for example a similar sized VLCC will not transit or enter any channel without a support of tugs ,the escort tailing tug is usually a must in all conditions which is not happening in the container industry . Accidents will keep happing from the over sized container ships unless the industry recognise the risk factors and take a real precautions to prevent it .

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