ANNAPOLIS — The topic during Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting was wetland licenses, but comptroller Peter Franchot brought up what everyone was thinking about: the boat.
The Ever Forward, the huge container ship stuck in the Chesapeake Bay that had been a headache for the U.S. Coast Guard, the Port of Baltimore, and the Department of the Environment for nearly a month, had become a problem for the governor, auditor, and state treasurer .
“I remain concerned about the ongoing salvage effort,” said Franchot, a Democrat running for governor. “Every day that passes increases the potential for hull breach and (and) disruption to Baltimore’s critical port. A hull breach can result in environmental, reputational, and economic risks for Maryland.”
The ship was the subject of local curiosity and nationwide conversation.
Buried in the mud
The ship, owned by Taiwan-based shipping company Evergreen Marine Corp, left Baltimore at 10:33 p.m. on March 13, steered outside of the Craighill Channel and landed on the ground just off the Pasadena coast, according to information from the Board of Public, according to the Board of Public .
By the time it is freed, it will be more than a month since it was originally wedged. At nearly 1,096 feet long and nearly 158 feet wide, it is the largest boat ever to be stranded in the Chesapeake Bay, according to Franchot.
WHAT WE KNOW:Will the ship stuck in the Chesapeake make itself afloat almost a month later?
Doug Myers, Maryland principal investigator for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, made clear the gravity of the situation during an interview with the Capital News Service.
“It’s a very big ship and it’s stuck,” Myers said. “The ship is 42 feet deep and in 24 feet of water. So that means about 20 feet of it is buried in the mud.”
What next, try to get the ship afloat again?
Rescue efforts are being coordinated by the Coast Guard with support from government agencies.
Plans to free the ship were launched immediately after the grounding. Initial efforts focused on dredging, removing the mud around the hull and using towboats to pull the ship out.
The first attempts failed. Dredging continued to a depth of 43 feet, along with an additional tow. Both were not working and dredging was halted on April 5, Port of Baltimore executive director William Doyle told the Board of Public Works.
The mud and sand dredged around the boat was taken to Poplar Island, a landmass off the east coast of Maryland in Talbot County.
LOAD LIGHTER:A huge cargo ship, still stuck in the Chesapeake Bay, is unloaded to get it back afloat
With all attempts to extricate the ship so far unsuccessful, Coast Guard officials have decided the next course of action is to remove cargo containers from the boat to lighten it. The containers will be returned to the Seagirt Marine Terminal in the Port of Baltimore, Doyle said. Weather permitting, the effort should begin on April 8 and last through April 15, he said.
Environmental Concerns in Chesapeake Bay
Evergreen paved the way for the new effort by declaring the ship general average on March 31. By declaring average, a principle of the law of the sea, all parties with an interest in the ship and its cargo bear the financial responsibility for resolving the predicament.
If this story sounds familiar, that’s because Ever Forward is a sister ship to Ever Given, the container ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal in Egypt in March 2021.
The Ever Given blocked traffic in the canal for six days. The incident put pressure on global shipping as numerous ships were unable to pass through the canal. The Ever Forward does not prevent passage through the bay.
But the longer the ship lies, the more environmental concerns arise. A 500-yard security zone has been established around the ship to prevent adverse effects from the ship running aground.
“Ensuring the stability of the ship and monitoring for signs of pollution remain top priorities for Unified Command and the responders,” Doyle said.
Environmentalists are concerned about the risk of pollution and damage. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring and protecting the Chesapeake Bay, has been closely monitoring removal efforts, Myers said.
“We’ve been in contact with the Department of Environment and the Coast Guard for a day or two after the beaching because we’re concerned that every time such a large ship runs aground, there’s a lot of stress on the hull,” he said.
“This type of ship is not designed to sit on the ground. It is designed to float. We will remain very concerned until it is freed and we are confident that nothing has spilled.”
During Wednesday’s meeting, Hogan said he may not have a solution for grounding, but he did offer a suggestion.
“I spoke to Bill Doyle about it,” he said. “I said I would climb on the side of this ship and draw an ‘N’ on it. ‘NEVER forward.’ “