Carlos Luxul wonders why beneficial cargo owners aren’t kicking up a greater fuss to get their goods from the stranded Ever Given.
As the saga of the Ever Given in the Suez canal rumbles on, one thing has struck me: why haven’t we heard anything about a class-action law suit against the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) from a collective of the frustrated shippers and receivers?
I haven’t seen the manifest but with around 20,000 TEUs on board, it stands to reason that many of the world’s leading corporations are likely to have been caught up in this – and while they may have a lot of power individually, they will have even more as a consortium.
While I’m no lawyer, it seems to me that the SCA is already guilty of flouting certain international laws and conventions. They are also making arbitrary and unreasonable claims against the ship’s ownership structure and, more specifically, the innocent parties caught up in it – the beneficial cargo owners. All this suggests there are solid grounds for action. Surely there’s an international commercial court or institution that would take up the case, and surely a leading law firm would want to head it up?
There’s plenty of scope: a court ruling to release the containers; damages for trade disruption; sanctions against the SCA; liens against their assets; restrictive orders against their leading personnel; and no doubt a good lawyer can add ten further claim categories in the time it takes to have a cup of coffee.
So far we’ve seen the usual pleas from the ship’s owners, the charterers, managers, flag, P&I Club and underwriters, and they’ve all fallen on deaf ears – as would be expected. So what’s stopping it? Is the legal ground shaky or are the beneficial cargo owners running scared of punitive action in the future from the SCA, who might try to restrict their future cargoes from transiting the canal?
In today’s litigious world, I’m surprised not to have heard any suggestion of legal action in the media, though perhaps it’s been discussed in private. So, all you lawyers out there, can you throw any light on it – would a class-action law suit work or is it already dead in the water? I’d love to see a reasoned opinion on the pros and cons, and I suspect everyone else would too.