As the grounding of the 127,000 dwt Ever Forward drags into its fourth day, experts are increasing forecasting that it will be a long and difficult salvage operation. Unlike the recent grounding of a Maersk containership near Hamburg that was resolved in a matter of hours with brute force involving nine tugs, the projection is that the Evergreen ship is deep in the mud and likely to require a lightening operation before it will be freed.
“As to the cause of the casualty,” cargo claims consultants WK Webster cites media reports saying, “the vessel strayed from the narrow fairway of the Chesapeake Bay during its outward passage from Baltimore and is likely to have grounded in shallow water on a predominantly muddy bottom. The vessel's draft at the time of departure from Baltimore is reported to have been 13 meters whereas the average depth of the Bay is approximately only 6.4 meters. Significant efforts may therefore be required to refloat the vessel and it is possible that recovery issues may arise in respect of any time and/or temperature sensitive cargo in the event of any prolonged delay in the vessel's schedule.”
The U.S. Coast Guard remains on scene and working with the vessel’s owners and now the appointed salvage team to develop the recovery plan. On Wednesday, Captain David O’Connell, the Sector Commander of USCG Maryland got underway with Station Curtis Bay to observe the grounded vessel.
The 1,296 foot Ever Forward, which has a capacity of 12,000 TEU was outbound from Baltimore Sunday night and in the Craighill Channel when it grounded. Pictures show the vessel nearly fully loaded with containers after having made port stops in Savannah and Baltimore before its next destination of Norfolk. It is unclear how many of the boxes are empties that had been retrieved for the return trip to Asia.
Coast Guard responders are also working closely with personnel from the Maryland Department of the Environment to monitor the container ship while they also investigate how the ship grounded. The Coast Guard announced that it is requiring the vessel’s crew to conduct soundings of all tanks, bilges, and voids every four hours to monitor potential pollution and report any noticeable change in stability, draft readings, vessel position, or signs of an oil discharge.
The owners of the vessel, Evergreen noted that the incident has not caused a fuel leakage. They arranged for divers to conduct underwater inspections to confirm any damage to the vessel, and are coordinating with all the concerned parties to refloat the ship as soon as possible. Evergreen reportedly has hired a salvage team to manage the recovery operation.
While the vessel is outside the navigation channel, the Coast Guard is enforcing a 500-yard safety zone around the Ever Forward. Further, vessels operating in the vicinity are required to conduct one-way traffic and transit at a reduced speed.
“Technical experts boarded the Ever Forward Monday and Tuesday to evaluate its condition,” reports Port of Baltimore Executive Director William Doyle. “A salvage team, naval architects, and divers are working to determine the best course of action to free the ship.”