Posted on March 6, 2023
For a reminder on what happened in the Suez Canal blockage last year, see DredgeWire’s report at the time
Dutch salvage firm SMIT Salvage is embroiled in a legal fight with the owners of the Ever Given ship over the six-day long blockage of Suez Canal in 2021.
According to Bloomberg, the firm is claiming it was denied a proper payout for helping to refloat the ship when it became stuck in the Suez Canal in March 2021.
SMIT claims that it was instrumental in refloating the ship, and that its employees were put in danger during the process. The firm is now seeking a higher payout from the owners, Higaki Sangyo Kaisha, and has taken them to court in London.
SMIT is arguing that the owners are preventing it from claiming a higher salvage award.
The Suez Canal is a critical waterway, through which approximately 12 per cent of global trade passes, making it extremely strategic. The blockage of the canal in March 2021 caused a backlog of over 400 ships, with many re-routing around the Cape of Good Hope, adding at least a week to their voyages.
SMIT was called in to help refloat the Ever Given just hours after it became stuck. It chartered two robust tugs and explored the possibility of adjusting the quantity of water in the vessel’s ballast tanks to enhance its buoyancy and facilitate dislodging it from the bank.
Lawyers for the owners argue that SMIT did not play a major role in the rescue and that the Suez Canal Authority led the operation instead.
The owners also maintain SMIT is attempting to alter its approach following the refloating of the Ever Given. They contend that if SMIT prevails in its lawsuit, it could establish a hazardous precedent, in which a rescue team could initially negotiate business terms with a ship owner, but subsequently assert a salvage claim.
If SMIT receives permission for the salvage claim from the British court, it can claim up to $35 million based on the amount of security for its claim.
Just last month, shipping giant Maersk filed a lawsuit against the owner and operator of container ship Ever Given.
Maersk is claiming millions in compensation for delays caused by the incident, with sources reporting up to $43 million.