As Shoei Kisen Kaisha deals with the legal troubles in Egypt over its containership that blocked the Suez Canal, the Japanese owner could face another legal fight with the ship's flag state.
The 20,388-teu Ever Given (built 2018), currently held in Egypt after a court order secured last week, is flagged in Panama. That could allow claimants to pursue an arrest of its registration or that of its sisterships, Francisco Carreira-Pitti of Carreira Pitti Attorneys told TradeWinds.
A flag arrest would effectively freeze the Ever Given's registration with the Panama Maritime Authority, preventing owners from reflagging the ship, registering a new mortgage, transferring it to new ownership or changing its name.
"[Shoei Kisen Kaisha] have several vessels registered in the same company," Carreira-Pitti said.
"Tomorrow they may change that."
To get a flag arrest, evidence of the underlying claim must be filed plus a counter security bond, he said. The move allows action against the ship's protection and indemnity insurer, the UK P&I Club in the Ever Given's case.
Claimants would recover less money in Panama, Carreira-Pitti said, with courts there limiting liability to $32m, or $82m less than in London where registered owner Luster Maritime has already filed for limitation.
On Tuesday, shipping database Equasis shows Luster Maritime with 11 ships in its stead, nine of which are registered in Panama. The other two, both tankers, have been registered in the Marshall Islands and Liberia since delivery from their yards.
Luster shares an address with Shoei Kisen. TradeWinds has contacted the Japanese shipowner's insurer for comment.
Currently, the Ever Given is at anchor in Great Bitter Lake as the Suez Canal Authority pursues $916m in claims against it for the 23 March grounding that blocked the key waterway for six days, slowing down global trade with hundreds of ships stuck waiting for passage.
The UK P&I Club said $300m of the authority's demands are for a salvage bonus and another $300m for loss of reputation.
The club called the claim "unsupported".
After the court order, charterer Evergreen Marine said it was looking at ways the cargo could be treated separately while pushing for a settlement as soon as possible.
The company said it would not be liable to shippers' claims arising from delays.