The Suez Canal legal fight

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.


  1. P&I Clubs have the most experienced legal teams in Maritime Business Law. They are undoubtedly burning the midnight oil to get the vessel and/or the cargo released.
    However, if Egypt does not want to follow the standard practices of maritime law, then it is not very different from piracy. P&I Clubs also have the experience in how to arrange ransom settlements.

    1. piracy – legal firms is where the piracy starts, racking up exhorbitant costs. This is not the open seas, this is a canal, Egypt’s.

  2. You have asked very valid questions but not the subjective ones! For example what do we learn from that incident?

    All beneficiaries (ship’s owners, the charterers, managers, flag, P&I Club and underwriters) incl SCA agreed that certain damage occurs and an incorrect settlement will lead to further harm. Such business case should be addressed in that context not a political one!

  3. Boycot suez canal.Concentrate go around cape town.Calculate the cost and let suez be.

  4. One thing is right in this article. The writer is not a lowyer & he doesn’t understand anything

  5. For the price of USD 1 billion, the shipowner can buy 5 brand new ships. SCA will get to keep a ship, and the cargo onboard, which as days go by is depreciating in value. Very soon the ship will become a worthless rust-bucket fit for the scrap-yards.
    My heart bleeds for the seafarers onboard.

  6. SCA said the shipowners are not ready to pay anything. I am completely surprised of this. So shipowners are not even prepared to foot the costs of dislodging this ship from where it stacked 🙆🏿🙆🏿.
    Honestly shipowners ought to have indicated their desire to mitigate the losses.

  7. It is common cause that SCA allowed the abnormal sized Ever Given to enter the canal in bad weather conditions, without additional tugs for direction control and stability. Unless negligence by the master or owner can be proved, the SCA must bear responsibility for the incident, and have no case. Ever Given’s transit could easily have been delayed by SCA until conditions improved. Better to be resolved by a maritime hearing than let lawyers feast on it to the detriment of the cargo owners.

    1. Sadly this illustrated Egypt historical Camel Dung Arab Bedouin wisdom of 1967 war and unprecedented unrecoverable losses

  8. Hey…Shippees ..Go around African continent…and let egyptians play water sports in Suez…

  9. I read in the early days there were 3 pilots on board. Experience in the waters and conditions. Are they not the liable collective?.

  10. What is going to happen when the aircraftcarier Queen Elizabeth 2 goes through the Suez Canal and gets stuck. I wonder what would happen then especially with all the destroyers and frights and subs . I wonder what S.C.A would do then?

  11. Mr Nasser was soundly trounced the last time Egypt tried this stunt. I guess men were men back then? Now they wring their hands and cry foul? Bet they wouldn’t try it if it was a Chinese ship. Jimping would not be amused.

  12. Any thing to do with Egyptians is always money for them and money for the government

  13. Maybe they could all do something amazing and accept that it was just a matter of time before this would happen. In many ways, it is like ‘wide load accident blocks major motorway’,- in slow motion. Some ships went round the Cape, some could not. Insurers should be covering them. As for Evergiven and the canal authority, sensibly their situations have limitations. A negotiated agreement can be achieved but the bigger problem is investment in prevention,to make this situation as impossible as possible. The Pandemic has stretched global finances, just when an asset that has arguably needed massive investment, for quite some time, decided to demonstrate just why. One for the drawing board, with local sensitivities respected, and the needs for and of shipping met with satisfaction. Or just maybe Evergiven will become just that, a decaying monument to intransigence. Things do go wrong. The challenge is sorting it out and finding new systems. Spreading the bill for all that, after Insurance, will one day be key. Evergiven could be a sign of global good will, human determination and effort. Sadly, she may be end up like a ship in a bottle. Or something more unusual Shotel Cabin with a view anyone?!

  14. I still don’t get what loss of revenue has SCA suffered? There were x number of ships piled up and all transited the canal paying the fee may be just a couple of early birds diverted via Cape – that’s all they should claim for besides the tugs and resources employed to unstuck the ever given. Everyone knows SCA is trying it’s luck to make a quick buck. Down with their Marlboro mentality

  15. Egyptian authorities trying to fish in troubled waters. In these difficult times when everyone needs everyone they should take a sensible approach and let the ship leave. Natural weather conditions caused this problem in the first place. SCA should have proper procedures in place to guide these massive ships. They’re just trying intimidating tactics. All nations should get together and put pressure on SCA. Break it’s back by boycotting Suez canal. Loss of revenue will knock some sense. Ships can use Cape route. Long term solution is required to prevent this kind of dirty game by SCA.

  16. SCA can let the ship go as other ships of the same company are passing Suez. SCA can arrest another ship of company in case they need to do that.

  17. And they listed “loss of reputation” as one of their gripes, obviously just to inflate the amount. Seems to me that they’re damaging their reputation (such as it may be) far more than the ship did.

  18. SCA Pilots priority is to get maximum cigarettes from Master, hence its called Marlboro Channel.
    No consideration to safety of ship or canal.
    Pilots and Suez Canal Authority is to be blamed for.

  19. Not much by way of sensible comment here at all.

    Two things need to be considered; the concept “common venture”, and the concept of “strict liability”.

    Any voyage is considered to be a common venture, very strictly defined by the terms of the Bill of Lading all cargo interests have willingly entered into.

    As such, the value of the vessel, her containers and cargo are considered as one as between vessel and cargo interests. Any liabilities incurred as a consequence of misadventure are to be shared between all of the vessel/cargo interests according to the percentage of the whole amount represented
    participants ‘contribution’

    Having regard for ‘strict liability’, I have not sighted the terms and conditions utilised by the Suez Canal
    Authority, by I have never heard of any Harbour, Canal or even Tug Company anywhere in the World
    which does not exclude liability for any loss whatsover, even in the case of demonstrable, even criminal negligence.

    These matters are black and white, and no case in search of any other outcome is able to be made.

    The ship owners should have been making arrangements to have the ship destroyed, and the canal cleared, as soon as it became apparent that the liabilities being accrued were accumulating at a greater rate each day, than the value of the ship and cargo combined. About 24 hours.

    As things stand now, we all (that’s you and me) have to pay for billions of dollars ‘pissed up the wall’ for no reason at all.

    1. Charles Craig

      Really? Doesn’t look like a sensible comment if you are advising that the ship be destroyed.

      1. The obligation upon all parties is to contain and mitigate losses As soon as it became clear, about 24 hours, that the losses being incurred were accruing at a rate greater than the value of the vessel and cargo combined on a daily basis, any and every action necessary to reopen the canal should have been taken.

        If the canal could have been reopened by destroying the vessel, it is clearly criminally negligent to have failed to consider doing so.

        It would have been a lot cheaper for all concerned.

  20. World community using Suez Canal has to Unitedly support Ever Given.
    SCA is now acting in an unjust manner.
    I know there is need to talk to them.
    If they are realistically right in their
    Claim they can go for arbitration but how can they impound a vessel they themselves permitted to transit.
    It is their GREED for more big money
    but in a Narrow Channel.

  21. World community using Suez Canal has to Unitedly support Ever Given.
    SCA is now acting in an unjust manner.
    I know there is need to talk to them.
    If they are realistically right in their
    Claim they can go for arbitration but how can they impound a vessel they themselves permitted to transit.
    It is their GREED for more big money
    but in a Narrow Canal while
    Weather was bad.

  22. What was found on the Evergiven?
    Who has stakes in it?
    What are we not being told?

    Lots you don’t know.
    Classified info

  23. This is certainly a compelling discussion.

    Whether ‘ he’ or ‘who’ did anything at all isn’t ‘in it’;
    It merely servers to illustrate that Captains of Ships are no better than the gutter filth I am obliged to share the road with each morning.

    What I am after is some evidence that anyone,
    anyone at all in the world of ‘Shipping’ is capable of expressing an ‘Adult’ point of view.

    With limited regards,
    Charles Craig

  24. Am I the only one here thinking that, a Ship Captain is exactly like a an Airplane Captain.
    Lets looks at this scenario:
    When the weather is below minimums or the pilot feels that safety could be comprimised, but then the pilot decides to land the plane anyway instead of holding/waiting or diverting somewhere else, then the Aircraft ends up in a crash. Now, would that be the Airport authority’s responsibility ? Hell No ! It is called Pilot in Command (PIC) responsibility. Safety of the flight is the sole responsibility of the PIC.
    I dont see how this is different from the stuck ship situation ?! It is definitely the Ship Captain responsibility.

  25. If The weather wasn’t conducive, no enough tug boats to escort the ship and yet human SCA was inside the ship to escort it- there should be a shared cost in accordance to Maritime laws. The insurance has laws and provisions and how much they can settle: excessive and greedy demands becomes a crime and unfair business practice.

    -~ Piracy has never been practiced anywhere in the world other than that same region. What’s the breakdown of damages? Or it’s just unnecessary, abnormal and unreasonable demands. SCA should be fair and think on the commercial entities they are holding.

  26. It is clear why drastic moves such as a “Class-Action” against the SCA would not be the way to go in this saga. As a lawyer I understand why “…many of the world’s leading corporations …” are not trying to push for this. A likely response would be for the Egyptian Government – rightly – declaring the Suez Canal would be closed. There would be more difficult implications for international trade. The effect of the recent “Eternal Bliss” story in China brings out a possible solution. At first claims of $6m were mooted that dropped to $1.1m to release the ship. Of course, $916m may be a different scenario but I am sure the government will justify its claims with evidence of its own costs. Because the SCA would receive tolls in any case from the ships that did get through after nearly a week of congestion, that may or not be a substantial element of the claim. The P&I Clubs, the Owners’ organisations, such as BIMCO, and other similar bodies can certainly bring to bear a good negotiation stance as happened for the “Eternal Bliss”. A Class Action would, in my opinion, as a professional mariner and a lawyer, would be irresponsible. As would calls for this.

  27. Above all the Captain of the ship is responsible for all disasters that may befall the ship. Simple maritime law.

    The problem is that we do not know what happened (other than getting stuck in the mud). What were the commands/suggestions by the Suez Pilot? Which way was the wind blowing? We do not know the simple facts. (Bad reporting) If this ship sustained such a wind/dust, was there a correct maneuver? We do not know that. What did the captain order? All reverse? Losing tiller? Just can not drive straight? Was there a proper maneuver under the circumstances? Maybe it was not possible to steer the ship safely. If so, the question is whether the Suez canal should have denied entry? Or, should the Captain be knowledgeable enough about his ship to not go there? Don’t they get weather reports? My bet is that the Captain screwed up. But, we do not know what he did. We do not know what the Suez Pilot suggested. And, we certainly do not know if it was even possible to navigate the canal under the circumstances. Lousy reporting. Reporting does not even suggest which direction the wind was blowing. Does it matter? You bet you last dollar it matters. A tail wind means the ship was traveling too fast. Reverse, possibly loosing tiller. Disaster. Head wind, no problem. Just increase power. Side wind? No problem unless you loose tiller. Anytime you loose the tiller, you are in serious trouble with any boat. Did the captain give orders that resulted in the loss of tiller (directional control). He hit the mud. So sufficient tiller was lost. Any captain can tell you that you are in trouble when that happens. In a canal it happens quickly. Out in the open sea, who cares (fix your engines if you can).

    We do not even know which way the wind was blowing. Much less what commands were given and by whom. But, the Captain is the Captain of the ship. He is at fault. Nobody else is sailing that ship. Hit the mud, you loose. Hit the rocks, even worse. The Captain is lucky there was mostly mud. Otherwise, the EverStuck would be in pieces jamming up the canal for a very long time. The owners should be thanking the captain for finding the mud.

    1. This is gone ‘very’ quiet; hasn’t it.

      Nothing surer to shut down a conversation between mutually agreed very pleasant individuals than a bit of common sense.

      I only came upon you by chance (admittedly a very Rare chance) and thought that you might have something sensible to say.

      What a bunch of, supposedly real,
      people ‘OUR’ industry has been able to conjecture.

      If I were the Publisher, I’d say ‘Oops’.


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