Judge hears litigation case relating to container ship wedged in Suez Canal

A judge in London has begun overseeing litigation after a container ship got wedged in the Suez Canal in Egypt.

Master Richard Davison oversaw an online High Court hearing on Tuesday, more than three months after the Ever Given got stuck while sailing from Malaysia to Rotterdam.

The judge heard from lawyers representing companies which own the ship, and a company chartering the ship, at a preliminary hearing in the specialist Admiralty Court, which is part of the High Court.

He was told that lawyers had reached agreement on a preliminary issue.

Ever Given cargo ship blocks Suez Canal
A digger being used to free the Ever Given (Suez Canal Authority)

Owners Luster Maritime SA and Higaki Sangyo Kaisha had made a “limitation claim” against charterers Evergreen Marine Corporation (Taiwan) and “all other persons claiming or being entitled to claim damages…”

Barrister Stewart Buckingham QC, who represented ship’s owners, told the judge that the charterers had admitted the owners’ “right to limit their liability”.

He told the judge that potentially there could be “many thousands” of claims by individual cargo owners.

Mr Buckingham said the owners’ position was that they were “not liable for the grounding incident or its consequences”.

“As was reported widely in the national and international press, on 23 March 2021, while en route to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, the vessel grounded along the bank of the Suez Canal, Egypt,” he said, in a written case outline.

“At the time of the incident the vessel was under pilotage by a Suez Canal pilot (a second Suez Canal pilot also being on board), who had earlier taken over from the harbour pilot, who had piloted the vessel from the Suez anchorage into the canal.

“It is understood that there was some damage to the bow of the vessel as a result of the Incident.

“However, no injuries, deaths or pollution are understood to have occurred.”

He said after several attempts the ship had been refloated on March 29.