Salvage crews freed the loaded containership Ever Forward on April 17, 35 days after it grounded in Chesapeake Bay.
The 1,095-foot ship left the navigation channel and became stuck near Gibson Island, north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, on March 13 at about 2100. There were no injuries among the crew, no pollution, and the ship did not block maritime traffic.
The cause of the grounding is subject to an ongoing U.S. Coast Guard investigation, according to spokeswoman Breanna Centeno from Public Affairs Detachment Baltimore.
The Hong Kong-flagged Ever Forward is owned by Evergreen Marine Corp. of Taiwan. The company also operated the 20,000-TEU containership Ever Given on charter when it became lodged in the Suez Canal in March 2021. That vessel blocked shipping traffic through the vital waterway for six days.
Ever Forward was underway from Baltimore, Md., to Norfolk, Va., with 4,964 containers when it grounded. Donjon-Smit led the effort to free Ever Forward, which was refloated on April 17.
“The vastness and complexity of this response were historic, as an incident like the Ever Forward grounding, in type and duration, is a rare occurrence,” said Capt. David O’Connell, commander of Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region.
In a statement issued by the Coast Guard, Evergreen Marine thanked the service and its local partners who oversaw the salvage effort, “all of whom worked tirelessly to bring this event to a successful conclusion.”
The salvage effort began taking shape soon after the vessel grounded. Dredges worked for nearly a week to remove sediment around the ship before an initial refloating attempt on March 29. Another occurred on March 30 when at least five tugboats attempted to pull the ship back into the navigation channel.
Two tugs pushed on the ship’s port quarter during the operation, while three powerful salvage tugs pulled off the stern, according to images released by the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard shared an updated salvage plan on April 4 that acknowledged responders could not overcome the massive ship’s ground force. The new plan called for dredging under the ship to a depth of 43 feet and removing containers onto waiting barges to reduce the vessel’s tremendous weight.
“They are still removing containers (to lighten the ship),” Centeno said on April 15. “As of the last update, they had removed 323 containers out of a goal of 500 before they try to refloat the vessel.”
Container offloading was completed the following day. The boxes were towed back to Baltimore’s Seagirt Terminal, where the voyage began, and offloaded.
Two tugboats each from Donjon-Smit, Moran Towing and McAllister Towing combined to pull the ship free with help from two pull barges. Pull barges anchor to the seafloor and use “exceptionally powerful winches” to generate pulling force, the Coast Guard said. The winches pulled massive chains connected to the ship.
“We were pleased to have been able to play a role in the successful freeing of the Ever Forward on Easter Sunday morning,” said Ned Moran, senior vice president at Moran Towing. “We were particularly impressed with the planning and oversight of the operation by the U.S. Coast Guard and the engineering, expertise and effort by Donjon-Smit.”
Crew aboard the ship took regular soundings of Ever Forward’s fuel and ballast tanks to detect any leaks. A naval architect and salvage master monitored readings from sensors installed on the ship to measure its stability and overall integrity.
Ever Forward’s crew remained on board during the episode, Centeno said. The Coast Guard did not have an exact number of crewmembers or their nationalities.
Attempts to reach Evergreen Marine for additional comment on the grounding were not successful. Donjon-Smit did not immediately respond to an inquiry.