After being stuck in the mud in Chesapeake Bay since it grounded March 13, the 1,095 feet long, 12,118 TEU Evergreen Marine containership Ever Forward was finally refloated at around 7.00 a.m. local time, Sunday April 17.
Success followed after multiple earlier efforts had failed and came after the removal of hundreds of containers from the vessel and further dredging.
According to the Baltimore Sun, “two pulling barges and five mighty tug boats shimmied the massive ship backward and sideways until she was dislodged just before 7 a.m. Salvage crews harnessed the power of a full moon and a spring tide in a third and final push to free the ship that had sat stuck for more than a month.”
The Coast Guard says that the Ever Forward was hard aground outside of the navigation channel along the entire length of its hull. The refloat required extensive coordination of responders and involved the development and implementation of a comprehensive salvage plan, including dredging and push and pull tugboat operations.
Following two unsuccessful refloat attempts on March 29 and 30, salvage experts determined they would not be able to overcome the ground force of the 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 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 the containership..
“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 Corporation, 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 Corporation 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.”