It took five weeks and three attempts, but at about 7 a.m. on Sunday, the Ever Forward, a 1,095-foot-tall container ship operated by the same company whose ship closed the Suez Canal last year, was finally released in the Chesapeake Bay.
Loaded with nearly 5,000 containers, Ever Forward was en route to Norfolk, Virginia, from Baltimore when, according to the US Coast Guard, it ran aground in the bay near Craighill Channel on March 13.
“Initial reports indicated that there were no injuries, contamination or damage to the vessel as a result of the grounding,” the agency said in a statement at the time. It added that the ship, which was stuck about 20 miles southeast of Baltimore, did not intercept the canal.
More than two weeks later, after a week of dredging below the ship, the Coast Guard, along with the Maryland Department of Environment and Evergreen Marine Corp., which owns the ship, made the first attempt to refloat it. Their efforts were unsuccessful.
They tried again the next day, but the ship didn’t budge.
“Rescue experts have determined that they will not be able to overcome the ground force of Ever Forward in its loaded state,” the Coast Guard said in a statement Sunday.
On April 4, authorities announced a new plan: They would continue dredging the sediments to a depth of 43 feet and at the same time begin unloading Ever Forward containers onto barges that would bring them back to Baltimore.
Once the ship’s load is lightened, tugs and barges will attempt another flotation as authorities continue to monitor the pollution. A marine engineer and salvage master remotely track the ship’s stability.
This new strategy will take about two weeks, the Coast Guard said, adding that it offers “the best chance of successfully returning the Ever Forward buoy.”
Brianna Centeno, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, said by phone that the attempt to refloat the ship was successful early Sunday.
In a statement, the agency said it removed 500 containers from the ship and dredged more than 200,000 cubic yards of material from the bottom of the estuary, which will be used to compensate for erosion on Poplar Island, a three-mile patch of land. Chesapeake area.
Captain David O’Connell, the Coast Guard’s Maryland-National Capital District Commander, said the ship’s grounding was a “rare event.” “The breadth and complexity of this response has been historic,” he added.
Petty Officer Centeno said the Coast Guard will continue to investigate how the ship broke down, adding that there are many potential reasons the ship could veer off land.
The Ever Forward became stranded about a year after the Ever Geffen, one of the world’s largest container ships, was removed from the Suez Canal, six days after it ran aground.
The Ever Geffen River, nearly a quarter mile long, became stuck on March 23, 2021, blocking a channel believed to handle about 10 percent of global commercial shipping traffic.
By the time the ship was ejected, 367 ships were kept in reserve waiting to pass through the canal. The accident was disastrous for the shipping industry, freezing nearly $10 billion in trade per day.
In a statement, William Doyle, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration, described the mission to liberate Ever Forward as a “remarkable team effort” helped by, he said, “the high tide on Easter Sunday in the Chesapeake Bay.”