The container ship Ever Given sailed for 18 minutes above the 12-knot speed limit in the Suez Canal last year before the master lost control and grounded the ship, according to court papers filed in London.

A group of cargo owners and their insurers are claiming more than $325,000 in damages and costs from shipowner Shoei Kisen Kaisha for negligence and breach of duty because of delays caused by the grounding on 23 March 2021.

The UK, Dutch and German cargo owners and their insurers bringing claims said their pet products and bulbs of ginger went mouldy and rotted because of the delay.

The claim is just a fraction of the total damages sought over the six-day snarl of one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Shoei Kisen Kaisha, through its companies Luster Maritime and Higaki Sangyo, has set up a £84m ($94m) fund through the UK courts designed to limit the payouts.

Lawyers for the cargo owners said the ship travelled at “excessive speed” and was “seldom” in the deeper central area of the canal where the 20,388-teu Ever Given (built 2018) would have been easier to control.

The claim filed by shipping specialist Roose + Partners said: “An excessive amount of helm was used, which resulted in the vessel developing rates of turn that were excessive for a vessel of her size in such a confined waterway.”

Error of navigation

It said similar ships including the 21,237-teu Cocso Shipping Galaxy (built 2019) had passed through the canal without incident.

“The cause of the grounding was an error in the navigation of the vessel, which ought not reasonably to have been made,” the papers said.

A court hearing in Egypt last year was told that two pilots of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) on the bridge of the Ever Given argued about the ship’s passage through the canal, Bloomberg reported last year. The hearing was to decide damages for the SCA caused by the logjam.

The $1bn dispute was eventually settled via private negotiations between the SCA, Shoei Kisen Kaisha and the protection and indemnity clubs.

Lawyers for both sides in the London dispute did not respond to requests for comment.