Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority (SCA) rejected on Saturday claims made by the giant Ever Given insurer UK Club, and said that exceeding set speeds at the country’s strategic canal is the sole responsibility of the ship captain.
In a statement, the SCA said that vessels crossing Suez Canal are subject to a set speed of 14 to 16 km per hour according to the type of the transiting vessel according to Article 54 of the Navigation Book of Rules.
It added that Article 58 stipulates that the SCA shall assign two escorting tugs to container ships carrying a tonnage of 170,000 tons and above, adding that such rule was applied to the giant ship.
“According to the aforementioned, the vessels shall comply with the stated speed in accordance with the Navigation Book of Rules when transiting the canal; and exceeding these speeds is the sole responsibility of the ship master,” it said.
The SCA’s statement comes a few days after UK Club said that the speed of the Ever Given was controlled by the canal’s operator before it ran aground and blocked traffic in the strategic canal for six days in March.
“Critically it is important to clarify that whilst the master is ultimately responsible for the vessel, navigation in the canal transit within a convoy is controlled by the Suez Canal pilots and SCA vessel traffic management services,” UK Club said on Thursday, adding that the controls include the speed of the transit and the availability of escort tugs.
The ship insurer’s statement came in response to statements by SCA officials that the ship was sailing too fast and that the error was entirely the responsibility of Ever Given's captain and not that of the canal’s operator whose opinion is non-binding.
The dispute over which party is at fault over the crisis, which crippled the global supply chain in March for nearly a week, comes amid continuing legal dispute over the ship.
In late May, a trial over the Ever Given was adjourned to 20 June to allow for further negotiations on the compensation value.
The Ismailia Economic Court postponed the hearing upon the requests made by the lawyers representing the SCA and the ship owner.
The lawyers said the postponement is meant to allow for reaching an amicable solution to the ship crisis.
The SCA had slashed its compensation claim of $916 million to $550 million to settle the current judicial dispute, with the mega-ship to be allowed to leave if nearly 40 percent of the sum is paid in cash.
Ever Given’s insurers say the demanded sum is still too high, previously offering to pay $150 million in compensation for the six-day traffic halt.
The ship ran aground across the canal on 23 March and was refloated on 29 March by a fleet of Egyptian tugboats and diggers, with the assistance of the tide.
The vessel has since been anchored in a lake between two sections of the canal.