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2nd plan to refloat container ship moving forward

Ever Forward remains in Chesapeake Bay more than 3 weeks after grounding

A second plan has been devised to refloat the Ever Forward, which has been stuck in Chesapeake Bay since March. 13. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

The Coast Guard said there is a revised strategy to refloat the Ever Forward, and the second attempt to get the grounded container ship out of Chesapeake Bay could take more than two weeks.

“Salvage experts determined they would not be able to overcome the ground force of the Ever Forward in its current loaded condition. The new strategy offers the best chance of successfully refloating the Ever Forward,” the Coast Guard said in a press release Monday. It is working with the Maryland Department of the Environment and Evergreen Marine Corp. to remove the vessel from the shipping channel. 

The 1,095-foot-long Ever Forward, with a carrying capacity of 11,850 twenty-foot equivalent units, ran aground in Chesapeake Bay near the Craighill channel March 13. 

The Ever Forward grounding drew global attention not for disruption of the supply chain but for its name. Another Evergreen container ship, the Ever Given, notoriously blocked the Suez Canal for a week last year and sent the global supply chain — and mainstream media — into a tizzy.

The Ever Forward is not preventing other vessels from transiting to or from the Port of Baltimore, where it last berthed. As Lars Jensen, CEO of Vespucci Marine, noted soon after the incident, the Ever Forward grounding “is not an event with major global ramifications.” 

Still, it is a spectacle in Chesapeake Bay, and state and federal agencies began working with Evergreen almost immediately after the grounding to devise a strategy to get the container ship on its way.

The Coast Guard shared the first refloating plan on March 18. “After sufficient mud is excavated, the amount of ballast water on Ever Forward will be adjusted to reduce the ship’s weight and the refloating operation will begin using both the tugboats and the power of her main engine. The rescue team will carry out the plan utilizing the most beneficial high-tide period in the port area.”

Following more than a week of dredging, an attempt to refloat the ship took place last Tuesday. The Ever Forward didn’t budge.

The Coast Guard said Monday that dredging to a channel depth of 43 feet would continue. But now containers will be removed from the Ever Forward “as soon as the installation of two crane barges with suitable lift heights” takes place.

The removed containers will be shuttled back to where they were onloaded, the Seagrit Marine Terminal at the Port of Baltimore.  

“Once the containers are removed, tugs and pull barges will attempt another refloat,” the Coast Guard press release said, adding that “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.” 

Meanwhile, a sensor system has been installed to constantly monitor the ship’s stability. Regular soundings of the fuel and ballast tanks are also being done, according to the Coast Guard. 

The Ever Forward was bound for Norfolk, Virginia, when it ran aground. In addition to Baltimore, the container ship had called Colon, Panama, and Savannah, Georgia. The Ever Forward sails on the Ocean Alliance’s Asia-U.S. East Coast service. It was expected to call New York before transiting the Panama Canal to pick up cargo in China. 

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Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

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Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.