Quarrelling between the two pilots of the Ever Given seems to have played an important role in the container giant’s grounding in the Suez Canal on 23 March. This follows from conversations recorded by the voyage data recorder on board, reports of which are included in legal documents.
Largely based on these court documents, Bloomberg made an extensive reconstruction. The salient revelation will probably make little difference to liability for damages, however. The pilots were employed by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), but in its general terms and conditions, SCA rejects all liability. Among other things, these state that the pilots only have an advisory role and that the captain is responsible for navigation at all times.
As is well known, SCA initially demanded a huge amount of compensation from shipping company Shoei Kisen Kaisha for the damage and loss of reputation. Last week, the parties announced that “an agreement” had been reached, presumably for a lower amount, and that the ship would finally be allowed to leave after more than three months. That is now almost a week ago.
From conversations recorded by the voyage data recorder on board, and reports of which are included in legal documents, it appears that the pilots gave contradictory instructions and shouted at each other just before the ship ran aground. Presumably insults were exchanged in Arabic as well, but these were not recorded in the conversation reports.
Because the container giant sailing for Evergreen was dealing with strong winds in the narrow channel, the senior pilot gave the helmsman the command ‘full ahead’ to increase manoeuvrability. This would increase the speed to about thirteen knots, whereas the recommended speed on that route is eight knots.
The second pilot, who was lower in rank, objected to this. This led to a confrontation between the two, during which the captain had to intervene. However, by then disaster had already struck because the ship had come too close to the shore and was being sucked towards the bank, the so-called Bernoulli effect. Sailing faster increases this effect.
After the grounding, the two pilots continued to hassle each other, according to the documents seen by Bloomberg, the content of which is disputed by the SCA. But the news agency comes up with a literal quote: ‘These vessels (in the convoy – ed.) are not supposed to enter,’ said the senior pilot. ‘Why did you let it enter?’ his colleague retorted.
Picture by the SCA.
This article first appeared in Dutch on NT.nl, a publication of SWZ|Maritime’s publishing partner Promedia.