Third time is the charm: Ever Forward refloated

(BALTIMORE) — The U.S. Coast Guard, Maryland Department of the Environment and Evergreen Marine Corp., in partnership with multiple state and local responders, refloated the containership Ever Forward on Sunday.

The effort followed a 35-day-long salvage operation that began Sunday, March 13, after the 1,095-foot vessel grounded in Chesapeake Bay near Craighill Channel.

Refloating Ever Forward, which was hard aground outside of the navigation channel along the entire length of the ship’s hull, required extensive coordination of responders and involved the development and implementation of a comprehensive salvage plan, including dredging and push and pull tugboat operations.

George Mason University Department of Police and Public Safety photo

Following two unsuccessful refloat attempts on March 29 and March 30, salvage experts determined they would not be able to overcome the ground force of Ever Forward in its loaded condition, with 4,964 containers aboard.

Dredging was completed to a depth of 43 feet, resulting in 206,280 cubic yards of material being dredged and taken to Poplar Island. The material is being used to offset erosion at the Paul S. Sarbanes ecosystem restoration project.

Operations to remove 500 containers with crane barges ran from April 9 through April 16.

For safety and balance purposes, containers from both the port and starboard sides of the ship were removed and placed on receiving barges during daylight hours only. These containers were then taken to their original onboarding facility, Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore, and offloaded by shore-based handling gear.

After the containers were removed, two pulling barges, two tugs from Donjon-SMIT, two tugs from Moran, and two tugs from McAllister freed Ever Forward at approximately 7 a.m.

“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. “It was the collaboration of each responding agency, Evergreen Marine Corp., and dedicated responders that resulted in the successful refloating of Ever Forward while ensuring the safety of the public and response personnel, mitigating pollution potential, and minimizing economic impacts.”

Throughout the operation, extensive steps have been taken to protect the environment. Fuel tanks on the ship were regularly monitored, and equipment, including the containment boom, was pre-staged for rapid deployment in the event of a fuel release. Special conditions in an emergency wetlands license issued by the state of Maryland for dredging include a requirement for the licensee, Donjon-SMIT, to assess the dredge and vessel grounding area for impacts to a natural oyster bar in the area, provide a report to the Maryland Department of the Environment after the vessel’s removal and then develop a plan for any mitigation determined to be required for impacts to that oyster bar.

“We appreciate the steady partnership with the Coast Guard, Evergreen Marine Corp. and all the other agencies that worked to prevent pollution and protect the Chesapeake Bay,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “We remain focused on moving forward to the environmental restoration and compensation phase.”

Ever Forward, a Hong-Kong flagged containership, had departed Baltimore on March 13 when it ran aground. The ship will be towed to the Annapolis Anchorage Grounds for inspection. It will reload the containers that had been removed and continue its voyage to its next port of call in Norfolk, Va.

In a corporate statement, Evergreen Line representatives said, “We are deeply appreciative of the efforts put forth by the U.S. Coast Guard, Maryland Port Administration, local and federal environmental protection agencies, and the many private service providers that were engaged, all of whom worked tirelessly to bring this event to a successful conclusion.”

– U.S. Coast Guard

By Rich Miller