Will Ever Given's Indian crew be arrested? Expert calls them 'scapegoats' amid probe into Suez Canal blockade
The Ever Given container ship has been freed and refloated in the Suez Canal after blocking the maritime route for almost a week. However, the all-Indian crew could face legal repercussions in the aftermath, according to media reports.
The Ever Given, a Panama-flagged container ship that was on its way from Asia to Europe, got stuck on Tuesday, March 23, in the Suez Canal dividing continental Africa from the Sinai peninsula. It was apparently struck by a sudden strong wind causing the hull to deviate from the waterway and accidentally hit the bottom.
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As the Ever Given was freed, hundreds of ships were waiting to pass through the canal linking the Mediterranean to the Red Sea on what is one of the world's busiest trade routes. While Egyptian officials believe that the backlog of ships waiting to transit would be cleared in three days, according to the BBC, experts believe that global shipping could, in fact, take weeks or even months to resolve.
Following its dislodging from the Suez Canal, the Ever Given was safely anchored on Tuesday, March 30, in the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south ends of the canal, according to Al Jazeera. Experts then boarded the ship to investigate what caused the grounding. According to reports, the ship is being investigated for signs of damage to determine the cause of the vessel's grounding. Engines of the ship are also being examined to determine when it can sail to its destination in the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, Indian authorities are concerned about legal issues, including criminal charges that the 25 Indian crew members could face, according to The Times of India. According to the outlet, the captain and some of the crew members of the Ever Given may be restrained from traveling further and could be placed under house arrest until the investigation into the cause of the grounding is completed.
A senior person associated with the shipping industry told the outlet, "There is a clear danger that the crew will be made scapegoats." Captain Sanjay Prashar, a member of the Indian National Shipping Board (NSB) told the outlet, "Firstly, it has to be ascertained as to how the giant ship ran aground. Facts can be checked by examining and listening to conversation in the ship voyage data recorder and one can come to an understanding as to what caused the mishap."
The National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) expressed solidarity with the Indian crew members, with the General Secretary of the group, Abdulgani Serang, tweeting, "1) Good news of refloating of "Ever Given" stuck in Suez. We stand solidly behind all Indian seafarers of "Ever Given" in support n solidarity 2) NUSI demand to PMO for Covid Vaccine on "priority" for all ranks of our Indian seafarers is still not agreed. Await good news soon."
1) Good news of refloating of "Ever Given" stuck in Suez. We stand solidly behind all Indian seafarers of "Ever Given" in support n solidarity— Abdulgani Serang (@AbdulganiSerang) March 29, 2021
2) NUSI demand to PMO for Covid Vaccine on "priority" for all ranks of our Indian seafarers is still not agreed. Await good news soon