After two failed attempts, a new attempt was launched Wednesday to extricate a 130-ton, fully loaded cargo ship that has been stuck in the mud of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay for more than three weeks.
US Coast Guard officials said two large cranes and two barges would be moved to where the container ship Ever Forward ran aground in shallow water and crews are to begin unloading some of the 5,000 cargo containers on board in the hope that this will help the ship provide the buoyancy needed to free it.
“They are still preparing the equipment so they can remove the containers. It will take a few days to set that up,” Petty Officer Cynthia Oldham, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, told ABC News on Wednesday afternoon.
She said once the cranes and barges are in place, crews could start removing the containers this weekend or early next week.
“Hopefully it will be completed around April 15, but of course that depends on a lot of different variables,” Oldham said.
The 1,095-foot vessel is owned by Evergreen Marine Corp., the same company that owns the cargo ship Ever Given, which got stuck in Egypt’s Suez Canal in March 2021, blockading the world-famous waterway for six days and causing massive delays in global shipping.
The Coast Guard said the Ever Forward was stranded in mud in about 23 feet of water off Downs Park in Pasadena, Maryland, about 20 miles south of Baltimore. The ship is located outside of the Deep Sea Shipping Channel so it will not impede boat traffic in the Chesapeake Bay.
“The ship is stuck from bow to stern,” Oldham said.
Two previous attempts to free the ship were unsuccessful. The crews tried to move the ship with several tugs, but it did not budge. Crews also dredged the hull of the big boat, but that effort was in vain too.
The latest plan involves removing some of the containers, each weighing 8,000 pounds empty, from both the starboard and port sides to preserve the ship’s stability, Oldham said.
“A few hundred containers are expected to be removed, not all,” Oldham said.
The refloat situation has gotten so bad that Evergreen Marine has informed anyone with a container on board that they must share in the cost of freeing the ship under the General Average Act, a principle of maritime law dating back to 1890.
“Evergreen Line urges all involved cargo prospects and joint venture slot users to provide security deposits and necessary documents according to the adjustment rules applicable to GA in order to receive the cargo after the ship is released and arrives at its future discharge ports. ‘ the company said in a statement released this week.
John Martino of the Annapolis School of Seamanship told ABC affiliate WMAR in Baltimore that the new plan to free the ship is fraught with danger.
“You have to be careful in which order you take the containers,” said Martino, who visited the ship on Tuesday. “So they have to make sure everything stays balanced as they move on.”
As a precaution, the Coast Guard only allows work to unload the ship during daylight hours.
The container ship ran aground on March 13 after leaving the Seagirt marine terminal in Baltimore. The Hong Kong-flagged ship was en route to Norfolk, Virginia, when the accident happened.
There were no reports of injuries or damage to the ship or its cargo.
After the incident, Evergreen immediately activated its contingency plan and assigned a salvor to conduct underwater inspections of the vessel and create a plan to refloat.
Evergreen reported that an inspection found no fuel or pollutants leaked from the ship into the Chesapeake Bay.