The ship Ever Geffen, which made navigation in the Suez Canal impossible in March, finally reached Rotterdam. Four months later than planned, thousands of containers can finally disembark from the ship. The question remains whether the shipment will then also reach all owners. “I can only breathe easy when I’m with a client.”
“Look, you can already see the tugboat heading toward the pier.” Herme de Graaf refers to a relatively small vessel. A little later, on a tow rope, a giant green ship looms: Ever Given. It’s 4.15am, and according to De Graaf – the captain of the KRVE 17 journalist boat – the most exciting part of the arrival has just arrived. “Oh well, sexy…”
As rower at the Koninklijke Roeiers Vereniging Eendracht (KRVE), it’s the everyday life of de Graf and his colleagues. “Eight of the big container ships arrive every day,” says the ship’s captain. Rowing boats may have been replaced by speed motorboats more than 125 years after KRVE was founded, but the mission has remained the same: to ensure that such colossal behemoths as Ever Geffen’s anchorage are safely in the port of Rotterdam. “In cooperation with the tugs and the pilot of course.”
Usually this is done without many prying eyes, but today around thirty journalists and photographers from all over the world sail around. The Water Police in Rotterdam will also come to take a look. De Graaf laughs: “I thought everyone had already forgotten about that boat.”
The 400-meter container ship of shipping company Evergreen became world famous on March 23 after it got stuck in the Suez Canal. Only six days later, the Dutch driller Boskalis managed to pull the ship from one of the main arteries of the world economy. But as the ships continued their journey in the long traffic jam behind Ever Geffen, the blocking ship was trapped.
What followed was a months-long legal battle over the damages claim between the Suez Canal Authorities (SCA) and Choi Kesen Kesha, the ship’s owner. A $550 million deal was reportedly completed. Much less than the original claim of $916 million.
On July 7, the Ever Given team was finally able to set the course for Rotterdam. Albeit slower than usual due to damage to the ship. “This extra day can also be added,” says Rob Bolt. Furniture store co-owner Rubie’s is happy that the ship is finally free, because somewhere in the 17,000 colorful containers filled with Ikea stuff, solar panels and school notes are also the three Bolte containers. Full of garden furniture.
However, Bolt can only breathe a sigh of relief when the items are actually on the customer. “In the coming days, all these containers will still have to be removed from the ship. And I heard that the port of Rotterdam first wants to make sure that all containers can actually leave.”
This may become difficult now because there is a chance that some customers will not come to collect the containers. Before receiving, they must first contribute to the damage to the so-called total average. This ancient maritime law ensured that damage costs were divided between ship owners and shipping. For most cargo owners, this is not a problem at all. Their cargo is insured and so is Rubie’s furniture. But many uninsured people are still disorganized.
“It can be tempting to leave a container with unsecured goods or items of low value. Especially if it contains perishable goods,” says Hans Nagtigal, container manager at the Port of Rotterdam. However, he is not afraid of many containers remaining on the road. “The shipping company announced that everything is now neatly arranged for 85 percent of the containers.”
What is the remaining 15 percent of the 9,000 containers that are unloaded in Rotterdam? Nagtegaal says many of these will be released soon. However, settling all damages can take years. The container expert expects cargo owners to also file claims with the Japanese shipowner and shipping company Evergreen for all delays. “It remains to be seen if that will work.”
In the coming days, the port and Ever Given with its Indian crew of twenty – sixteen of whom have been on board continuously since leaving Yantian port in southern China – will in any case remain busy unloading all the containers. The infamous ban ship then sails to Felixstowe in England and then travels to Dunkirk for necessary repairs.
It’s 5:40 a.m. and the winds have died down as the anchors of the Ever Geffen River are secured. The pilot’s last indications, almost incomprehensible, can be heard over the Herme de Graaf radio. “It was fantastic,” de Graaf said with relief after 12 hours of work. Tomorrow is another day to bring the lesser known, but like giant container ships ashore safely.
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