Cargo ship stuck in Chesapeake Bay: New Coast Guard operation underway to free ship
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - With all attempts to free the Ever Forward cargo ship that's stuck in the Chesapeake Bay coming up unsuccessful, officials are changing course.
The Coast Guard launched an operation Friday to remove cargo containers from the ship to lighten it. The first containers will be removed from the ship starting Saturday morning, and they will be returned to Seagirt Marine Terminal in the Port of Baltimore, according to port officials. Coast Guard officials say they are not sure how long the operation will take.
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - APRIL 05: In an aerial view, the Ever Forward container ship is shown in the Chesapeake Bay after running aground near Baltimore on April 5, 2022 in Pasadena, Maryland. Salvage crews will attempt to remove the containers from th
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Rescue plans revealed for cargo ship stranded in Chesapeake Bay
Ever Forward has been a nearly one-month headache for the U.S. Coast Guard, the Port of Baltimore and the Department of the Environment, and is now becoming a concern for the governor, the comptroller and the state’s treasurer. The topic was discussed by Maryland officials during a Board of Public Works meeting earlier this week.
"I remain concerned about the ongoing salvage effort," Franchot, a Democrat running for governor, said. "Each day that goes by increases the potential for a hull breach, (and) disruptions to the critical Port of Baltimore. A hull breach can result in ecological, reputational and economic risks to Maryland."
The ship has been the subject of local curiosity and nationwide conversation.
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Owned by Taiwan-based shipping company Evergreen Marine Corp, the vessel departed Baltimore at 10:33 p.m on March 13, and steered outside the Craighill Channel and became lodged on the bottom just off the shores of Pasadena, according to information from the Board of Public Works meeting.
By the time it is freed, it will have been more than a month since it originally became wedged. At almost 1,096 feet long and nearly 158 feet wide, it is, Franchot said, the largest boat ever stuck in the Chesapeake Bay.
Plans to free the ship were put in place immediately after it ran aground. Initial efforts centered around dredging, clearing away the mud from around the hull, and then using tow boats to pull the ship out.
The first attempts failed. Dredging continued to the depth of 43 feet, along with an additional tow. Neither worked and dredging was halted on April 5.
In addition to disruptions to the Port Of Baltimore's operations, the ship being stuck is raising environmental concerns. In an effort to prevent any negative impacts by the ship’s grounding, a 500-yard safety zone has been established around the vessel.
READ MORE: Cargo ship runs aground in Chesapeake Bay; efforts underway to refloat
"Ensuring the ship’s stability and monitoring for any signs of pollution continue to be top priorities for the Unified Command and responders," said William Doyle., the Port of Baltimore's Executive Director.
The threat of pollution and damage has environmentalists concerned. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay, has been watching the removal efforts closely.
"We’ve been in contact with the Department of the Environment and the Coast Guard since a day or two after the grounding, because of concern that anytime a ship that large is aground, it creates a lot of stress on the hull," said Doug Myers, Maryland Senior Scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
"This kind of ship is not designed to be sitting on the bottom. It’s designed to be floating. We will remain very concerned until it is freed, and we’re sure no spills have occurred," added Myers.
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During Wednesday’s meeting, Hogan said he may not have a solution to the grounding, but he did offer one suggestion.
"I’ve had a discussion with Bill Doyle about this," he said. "I said I was gonna climb up on the side of that ship and paint an ‘N’ on it. ‘Never Forward.’
The Associated Press contributed to this report.