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Navigating through a 200m canal becomes a skill to master

France’s Port Revel became a busy training facility after the Suez Canal disaster

There are heightened interests in mastering “the art” of navigating narrow routes in France, for obvious reasons. The hype of astronomical compensation demands drove mariners to the Port Revel training facility to learn how to avoid similar episodes like the recent Suez Canal incident.

Is this “skill” necessary?
Suez Canal’s vulnerability turned into a business opportunity for maritime trainers. Francois Mayor, managing director of the Port Revel training facility, noted: “After each accident, we see new clients coming. The cost of training at Port Revel is nothing like the cost of having a vessel like that stuck for a day.” Granted, $900 million is a massive amount to release the boat responsible for the six-deal ordeal, nonetheless there are mixed sentiments about who should be liable.

Although the Suez Canal is known to support 15 per cent of world shipping traffic, it is appalling for observers to comment the incidents of stuck vessels are “inevitable.” To add insult to injury, Suez Canal Authority’s (SCA) chief Lt. Gen Osama Rabie was swift to claim zero responsibility on the canal’s part. He asserted so despite full awareness of ongoing investigations. Rabie’s refusal to comment on anything near to force majeure may have planted a seed on shipowners’ and operators’ minds to reconsider using the canal.

Despite earlier reports in 2015 when Egypt opened a major expansion of the Suez Canal, which deepens the main waterway and provides ships with a 35km channel parallel to it, the $8.5 billion project did not include Ever Given was stranded at. Essentially, one cannot be faulted for feeling that SCA should take partial responsibility for the six-day traffic halt. Hence, to send mariners to learn how to coax a vessel through simulated training “just to avoid similar episodes” does not add up.

Wild card game
Announcing further expansion and adding heavier duty equipment to facilitate it do not diminish SCA’s accountability for the recent incident. If the operation in 2015 did not include the affected area, Egypt should have provided a rationale behind the decision. It instead continued to operate and take its chances. It took six years and a major world supply chain halt to drive the point home that the operation should have been more thorough.

Years of inadequate infrastructure and support only intensified the possibilities of such incidences. Knowing the canal as one of the country’s key source of revenue, more efforts should have been taken to facilitate smooth traffic and minimise incidents. Meanwhile, United States ports are suffering congestion and cargo owners are desperate to get their goods delivered. The wait is almost indefinite given the current situation of UK P&I’s questioning of Egypt’s claims. As for the mariners’ training, the demand remains to be seen.



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