The incident occurred when a containership suffered engine failure and stopped while part of a southbound convoy. The 5,086 TEU boxship Aeneas lost propulsion, causing convoy participants Panamax Alexander, the 81,691-dwt bulker Sakizaya Kalon, and the 55,831-dwt bulk ship Osios David to hit one another, forcing the closure of the key waterway for several hours.
Tugs were sent in to move the ships, but during the process, northbound 9,040 TEU NYK Orpheus hit Panamax Alexander, prompting three legal actions.
The first legal action was bought by the owners of the Sakizaya Kalon against the owners of Panamax Alexander, the second legal action was from the owners of Osios David against the owners of Panamax Alexander, and the third was from the owners of Osios David against the owners of Sakizaya Kalon.
A UK High Court hearing on October 5 ruled that Panamax Alexander's failure to moor promptly was to blame for the accident.
'I have no doubt that the first collision. Not merely provided the opportunity for the later collisions but constituted the cause of them,' said Justice Nigel John Teare.
'I, therefore, request counsel to prepare draft orders in the three actions giving effect to my decision that [Panama Alexander] is wholly responsible for all of the collisions,' the judge said.
The court also decided there was no causative fault on the part of either the Sakizaya Kalon or the Osios David.
The ruling confirms the increasing inapplicability of the once-popular but now hated last opportunity rule; a person who had the last opportunity to avoid an accident is liable for it. It highlights that mariners aren't to blame when placed in a dilemma by another's negligence.
The owners of the Panamax Alexander claim their ship wasn't to blame, saying that the Osios David and Sakizaya Kalon didn't inform of their intentions.
The court decided the Panamax Alexander had failed to keep enough space between it and Sakizaya Kalon.
The Sakizaya Kalon and the Osios David had both managed to moor, and there was no obvious reason why Panamax Alexander couldn't.
The court found Osios David was at fault for failing to inform Sakizaya Kalon of where it planned to moor. However, because Panamax Alexander couldn't show it would have navigated any differently if it had known, that failure was not causative.
The decision will be the last case by Mr Justice Teare, who is retiring after more than a decade as an Admiralty judge.