It has been a little more than three weeks since a massive cargo vessel had run aground in the Chesapeake Bay. The revised strategy to refloat the Ever Forward came after several failed attempts made for dredging it around the vessel and dislodging it with the tugboats.
The vessel, operated by Evergreen Marine Corp based in Taiwan, was headed from the Port of Baltimore to Norfolk in Virginia when it had run aground on 13 March.
Now, authorities will try unloading the containers from the cargo ship over the next two weeks and try to refloat it without containers onboard. However, to do that, the Coast Guard will need to install two crane barges tall enough to help remove the containers. Once that is done, the pull barges and the tugboats will make another attempt to refloat the vessel.
The containers will be removed in daylight hours only for safety purposes from both the port and starboard sides and placed on receiving barges. Then, these barges will shuttle the containers back to their original onboarding facility, Seagrit Marine Terminal in Baltimore, where they will be offloaded by shore-based handling gear.
Once the containers are removed, tugs and pull barges will attempt another refloat. The shipping channel will remain open to one way traffic during these operations, any changes will be announced via normal maritime means. All aspects of the operation should take approximately two weeks, however that timeline may change based on weather conditions and other variables outside of the control of the Unified Command.
A 500-yard safety zone around the ship in the Chesapeake Bay will continue for the duration of the operation and the adjacent shipping channel will remain unaffected. The zone has been established to provide for the safety of persons involved in the salvage operation as well as the integrity of the marine environment.
Ensuring the ship’s stability and monitoring for any signs of pollution continue to be top priorities for the Unified Command and responders. In addition to regular soundings of fuel and ballast tanks, a naval architect and salvage master are remotely monitoring a recently installed sensor system to constantly evaluate the ship’s stability and integrity and will continue to do so throughout the refloat operation. They will also continue to conduct regular visits to the ship.
Mariners are requested to monitor VHF channel 16 for the latest information.
Evergreen Marine Corp. has invoked an element of maritime law popular as “General Average,” meaning the owners of the containers on the Ever Forward will have to share in the cost of the undertaking.
This is the second time an Evergreen-operated cargo vessel has been stuck in a tough spot. In 2021, the Ever Given had ended up blocking the Suez Canal, interrupting the global supply chain for almost a week.
But unlike the Ever Given, its sister vessel in the Chesapeake Bay is not blocking the crucial trade channels. The ongoing debacle has turned into something of a spectacle as onlookers watch the drama unfold.