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Suez blockage ends, but Indian crew may face legal charges

By Priyanka Verma 
Updated Date

HYDERABAD: With the container ship ‘Ever Given’ that had blocked the Suez canal since March 23 wrenched free from the sandy bank by tug boats on Monday, the next big concern for its crew comprising 25 Indians is how the Suez Canal Authority will treat them.

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Both the Indian government and the seafarers’ organizations are concerned about the legal issues that the crew may face, including the possibility of criminal charges.

According to sources in the shipping industry, one of the possibilities is that the captain and some of the crew may be restrained from travelling further.

They could be placed under house arrest until investigation is completed into the cause of the accident. The ship management, however, has not explained anything about the legal procedures the crew will have to go through.

“There is a clear danger that the crew will be made scapegoats,” a senior person associated with the shipping industry said.

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Captain Sanjay Prashar, member, National Shipping Board (NSB), told, “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.”

‘Ever Given’ got stuck in the crucial Suez Canal on March 23, leading to a massive traffic jam. This resulted in more than 350 vessels — carrying everything from cattle, clothes to crude oil and furniture — getting stranded on both sides.

While Berhard Schulte Ship Management (BSSM) did not reveal the names of the 25 Indian seafarers, it said: “All the 25 crew members are safe and accounted for and they remain in good health. They are working closely with all parties involved to refloat the vessel. The hard work and tireless professionalism of the master and crew are greatly appreciated.”

Despite the appreciation that has come in the way of the Indian seafarers, a legal wrangle is what will inevitably follow.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) based in Mumbai has expressed solidarity with the Indian seafarers.

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“The NUSI has promised solidarity with all Indian seafarers on board ‘Ever Given’. I got in touch with them. The seafarers are fine but stressed. They are not alone and we will support them whenever required and in whatever manner required,” NUSI general secretary Abdulgani Serang tweeted.

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