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On 5 October 2020, in his last judgment in the Admiralty Court, Justice Teare handed down his decision1 on a consolidated action for a collision involving three laden bulk carrier vessels transiting the Suez Canal. The Judge ruled that one of the three, the Panamax Alexander (PA), was solely to blame for the collisions between herself and the Sakizaya Kalon (SK) first, and then between both ships and the Osios David (OD).

Authors: Richard M. Gunn Konstantinos Bachxevanis Voirrey Blount

PA was the eighth and last vessel in the southbound convoy that had been halted about two hours before the first collision when the first vessel in the convoy, having suffered an engine breakdown, blocked the canal. That caused all the following vessels in the convoy to take emergency mooring and/or anchoring action within the canal. OD and SK, the convoy’s sixth and seventh vessels respectively, managed to stop and securely moor between kilometer (KM) 151 and KM 152 alongside the canal’s west and east banks, respectively, about 15 minutes before the first collision, which occurred at around 19.48 hours when PA collided with SK. Both vessels then drifted downstream and collided with OD. The three ships were “locked” together for a few minutes with two sets of collisions taking place within a period of about 20 minutes, SK’s stern with OD’s stern, PA’s bow with OD’s bow, and SK’s bow with PA’s stern, before they managed to separate.

The Admiralty Judge held that PA was at fault in failing to appreciate that there was a risk of collision and, as result, failing to moor earlier in time in order to avoid that risk of collision. These were causative breaches of Rules 5, 7 and 8 of the International Collision Regulations (Colregs). He also held that, having failed to moor earlier and having then cleared submarine cables in the vicinity, PA failed to drop an anchor as part of a controlled mooring operation. This was a further breach of Rules 5, 7 and 8 and contributed to the first collision.