The colossal container ship that was finally freed Monday after running aground in the Suez Canal also struck a small ferry in Germany two years ago, according to a report.
A criminal probe was launched after the 1,300-foot-long Ever Given struck the 75-foot Finkenwerder, a pleasure ferry that was moored along the Elbe River in a suburb of Hamburg on Feb. 9, 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The 200,000-ton ship — which had stopped in Hamburg on its way from China to Rotterdam — mangled the much smaller vessel and came close to pulling a pontoon it was moored to free of the shore, according to the paper.
No passengers were aboard the ferry, but its captain was slightly hurt in the maritime mishap, according to Liddy Oechtering, a spokeswoman for the Hamburg Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Police launched a criminal investigation into a possible piloting error by the Ever Given’s captain, Oechtering said, but the probe found no misconduct and determined the captain had been caught by surprise by the wind, the Journal reported.
The mammoth ship’s slow speed had limited the captain’s ability to maneuver it away from the river’s banks, the investigation found, according to the outlet, which said it could not learn if the current captain also was the skipper when it hit the ferry.
The Ever Given’s owner, Japan’s Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., and its operator, Taiwan’s Evergreen, didn’t respond to requests for comment by the Journal on Sunday.
Evergreen also has cited wind as a factor in the Suez Canal fiasco — and Shoei Kisen has apologized for the incident.
But Egyptian officials said this weekend that human error might have been responsible for the latest accident.
“There may have been technical or human errors,” the canal authority’s chairman, Osama Rabie, told reporters Saturday, without giving more details. “All of these factors will become apparent in the investigation.”
Investigators also have cited what is known as “bank effects,” which can move a large ship close to shore when it is navigating in a shallow, narrow channel, according to the report.
Yiannis Sgouras, a Greek tanker captain who has navigated the canal at least two dozen times, said two local pilots usually come aboard to advise the ship’s master, who retains ultimate responsibility over the vessel.
“Suez is difficult and still gives me the creeps,” Sgouras said, adding that during windy gusts, “you really have to keep her steady. If you accidentally turn one degree you can lose her.”
On Monday, salvage experts finally managed to free the Ever Green, which resumed its voyage after blocking hundreds of ships behind it and disrupting global markets.