Two years since the grounding of the Ever Given in the Suez Canal, an event that brought traffic to a standstill in the busy waterway, the Panama Maritime Authority, acting as the authority of Ever Given’s flag state, has submitted a lengthy report to the International Maritime Organization.
The report concluded that the pilots and Master had not properly evaluated bad weather conditions, especially strong winds and reduced visibility, as risks for a VLCC (Very Large Container Carrier) with a large area exposed to the wind.
In addition, says the report, the vessel did not implement relative preventive measures against bad weather conditions (ie, to be aided by tugboats as indicated in the Suez Canal rules Art, 58 escorting tugs or even to postpone her Suez Canal transiting).
The fact that they did not use tugboats in a restricted area to better control the manoeuvrability of the ship was identified as a factor contributing to the grounding.
In addition, says the report, the pilots conducted the pilotage without requesting assistance from the Master, who was more familiar with vessel manoeuvring characteristics.
It goes on to point out that although the captain had intervened in the orders given by the pilot, instructing the helmsman to keep the ship in the middle of the channel, they were not effective in preventing the grounding.
“Bridge Team did not realise the vital importance of effective/efficient communication between the bridge crew and pilots. Discussions between pilots in the Arabic language had resulted in the rest of the Bridge Team not understanding pilots’ concerns, and potential hazards, in order to effectively conduct a risk assessment, implement corrective actions, or even request assistance to the VTMS.”
According to the Suez Canal regulations, the captain has command of the ship at all times, and the pilot or pilots only fulfil an advisory role. In addition, the regulations set the permissible speed for ships at 8.64 knots, while on average the Ever Given sailed at a speed higher than the permissible.
While the report acknowledges that there will be always risks for “vessel grounding” while they are transiting canals, the appropriate preventative measures need to be implemented in order to minimise risks and relative consequences.
A list of these is included in the report and ranges from crew training, clear communication during pilotage, evaluating the pilot’s actions, and paying attention during transit.