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Suez Canal:  Concern over legal action despite Grant ship’s Indian crew being in good health

The 25 Indian crew members aboard the ‘Ever Given’ are in good health. However, there are concerns about legal action that the crew may face post an investigation into the incident.

The 25 crew members, all Indian, aboard the massive ‘Ever Given’ container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for a week are in “good health” and “won’t be replaced for now”, authorities said on Wednesday.

The crew had been stranded since March 23 when the cargo vessel, now re-floated, got stuck in a narrow stretch of the Suez Canal in Egypt.

However, the Indian government and various seafarers’ organisations are worried that the crew may have to face legal action, including criminal charges.

Quoting unnamed sources, the Times of India in a report said the crew may be put under house arrest until an investigation into the cause of the incident is completed.

There is a possibility that the crew will be made “scapegoats”, the report quoted a senior person in the shipping industry as saying.

On the other hand, the German company Bernhard Schulte Ship management (BSM) which manages the ‘Ever Given’ said, “The crew was safe and in good health. Their hard work and tireless professionalism are greatly appreciated.”

BSM has not yet explained what, if any, legal procedures the crew will be put through.

Director General of Shipping Amitabh Kumar said there is no reason for the Indian government to intervene at present since the Indian crew has not been harmed in any way.

“As per the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), any vessel that has met with an accident has to be investigated… This is called ‘casualty investigation’,” he told the Times of India.

Kumar added that the report is normally submitted by the flag state. “If we receive any complaint that the inquiry is not impartial, then, of course, we will intervene. But so far we have not received any such complaint,” he said.

Abhijeet Sangle, working president of the All India Seafarers and General Workers Union, is reported as saying to the Times of India, “The company told us that a full inspection of the ship, including its hull and engine, and its cargo is currently on. If the ship is found fit, the vessel with the same crew will move to its next destination, Rotterdam, without any further delay.”

Post that, the BSM along with the Suez Canal authorities will scan the ship’s passage through the canal to understand what led to the blockage, Sangle said.

The 25 crew members are reportedly from Mumbai, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and parts of north India. Their names have not been divulged for security reasons.

On March 23, the skyscraper-sized ‘Ever Given’ got stuck diagonally in the Suez Canal, leading to a shipping traffic jam in the world’s busiest water routes, disrupting global trade.

Satellite image showing the ship stuck in the Suez Canal.

At least 367 vessels, carrying supplies such as crude oil and cattle, were stuck as a result.

This incident strained supply chains and held up 9 billion dollars in global trade every day that the canal remained jammed.

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