Ever Forward “in good condition” after being refloated

Container ship Ever Forward (IMO 9850551) was reported to be in a good condition, two days after being pulled free of a month-long stay in the mud in the Chesapeake Bay. The vessel had been taken to Annapolis, Maryland, for a check-up, and was now expected to get underway shortly in order to unload containers whose contents are long-awaited by their owners.

General Average has been declared and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, who is a candidate for the nomination to run for governor, has announced that he had sent a letter to Evergreen saying the company should “put up some form of good intention payment, and it could be in the range of $75m [to] $100m.” He said that the grounding and dredging had certainly resulted in disruptions to the bay’s fragile ecosystem. He also cited the potential for damage to oyster beds and disruptions to the spawning season for several species of fish that the seafood industry harvests.

A US Coast Guard investigation will begin, in association with other stakeholders, and is expected to take several months. Early reports were that somehow the vessel missed a turn in the Chesapeake Bay’s Craighill Channel as it was heading south after departing Baltimore. An unusual weather situation had caused a “water exit” from the bay, meaning that there was a greater danger of grounding. Because of the vessel’s load and speed, it rammed itself had aground in the mud before coming to a halt.

Eventually the vessel had to be lightered of a number of containers before it was finally freed from the mud on April 17th. It was then moved to an anchorage near Annapolis, where it was inspected by the US Coast Guard and divers to assess damage to the hull or machinery and confirm (or not) its seaworthiness.

A local paper reported that “all the ship has to show for its lengthy stay at the bottom of the bay is 2 millimetres of caked on mud and some paint scrapes.”

USCG Commander Baxter Smoak was quoted as saying that “we’re lucky it grounded in soft mud”.

Taiwan-based Evergreen Line said that the Ever Forward would now return to the Port of Baltimore. They intend to reload the 500 containers removed during the salvage operation and then resume the voyage, heading next for Norfolk, Virginia.

Cargo claims consultant WK Webster has noted that “all cargo on board will need to have suitable general average security provided before it can be delivered at destination.”

After posting the appropriate bonds, shippers should be able to receive their containers, but there was likely to be a lengthy arbitration and court case to resolve liabilities.

The salvage effort was led by Donjon-Smit, along with the US Coast Guard and the State of Maryland authorities. During a 35-day-long salvage operation, dredging was completed to a depth of 43ft, equal to 206,280 cubic yards of material being removed from around the vessel (and used as part of a reclamation project in the bay).

Captain David O’Connell, commander of USCG Sector Maryland-National Capital Region, said that “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,”

2020-built, Hong Kong-flagged, 117,340 gt Ever Forward is owned and managed by Evergreen Marine Corporation of Taoyuan City, China. It is entered with Gard P&I on behalf of Evergreen Marine (HK) Ltd.