A 45-foot Response Boat-Medium from Coast Guard Station Curtis Bay, in Baltimore, patrols Tuesday, March 29, 2022, alongside the grounded container ship EVER FORWARD in the Chesapeake Bay near Craighill Channel. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

Salvors to Remove Cargo Containers from Grounded Ever Forward

Mike Schuler
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April 4, 2022

Salvors will need to remove cargo containers from the grounded Ever Forward in Chesapeake Bay, the U.S. Coast Coast Guard said Monday following two unsuccessful attempts to refloat the ship last week.

The removal of containers, which is expected to take about two weeks, will involve two crane barges with suitible lifting heights for the operation, the Coast Guard said Monday. The cranes will lift containers from both the port and starboard sides and place them on receiving barges, which will shuttled the containers back to the Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore where they will be offloaded by shore-based cranes. Only “a portion” of the containers on board are expected to be removed.

For safety purposes, the operation is expected to take place during daylight hours.

The Coast Guard said the revised salvage plan comes after 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 re-floating the EVER FORWARD,” the Coast Guard said.

Previously announced dredging will continue to a depth of 43 feet.

The operation to remove containers is expected to begin as soon as the two cranes can be installled. Once the containers are removed, tugs and pull barges will attempt another refloat.

The Coast Guard said all aspects of the operation should take approximately two weeks, but the timeline may change based on weather conditions and other variables.

The 1,095-foot Ever Forward grounded outside the Craighill Channel on Sunday, March 13, as it departed the Port of Baltimore for its next port call in Norfolk, Virginia. Ship traffic in and out of the Port of Baltimore has not been impacted.

So far there has been no effort to lighten the ship of fuel, gas or ballast water.

The Craighill shipping channel will remain open one-way traffic during the cargo operation with a 500-yard safety zone remaining around the ship.

“Ensuring the ship’s stability and monitoring for any signs of pollution continue to be top priorities for the Unified Command and responders. In addition to regular soundings of fuel and ballast tanks, a naval architect and salvage master are remotely monitoring a recently installed sensor system to constantly evaluate the ship’s stability and integrity and will continue to do so throughout the refloat operation. They will also continue to conduct regular visits to the ship,” the Coast Guard said.

Mariners are requested to monitor VHF channel 16 for the latest information.

The U.S. Coast Guard has been working on the response with the Maryland Department of the Environment and the shipowner, Evergreen Marine Corporation, in partnership with multiple state and local responders. Donjon-Smit, a joint venture between U.S.-based Donjon Marine and Boskalis’ SMIT Salvage, is the designated salvage company.

The announcement today comes after two unsuccessful attempts to refloat the ship taking place on March 28 and March 30. Following the two failed attempts, Evergreen declared General Average “in light of the increasing costs arising from the continued attempts to refloat the vessel.”

General Average is a maritime law principle requiring that the shipowner and cargo interests proportionately share in the costs associated with rescuing a vessel after a major casualty.

The Hong Kong-flagged Ever Forward has the capacity to carry approximately 12,000 twenty-foot equivalent containers, known as TEU.

The Coast Guard has not said how many individual 40-foot containers are onboard or how many will need to be removed prior to the next refloating attempt.

Update: The Coast Guard on Tuesday said “a portion” of the containers will be removed. Reports indicate there are 5,000 individual containers on board.

Another refloating attempt, which will involve tugs and two pulling barges, has been tentatively scheduled for April 15.

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