The 11,850 TEU container ship Ever Forward was refloated as of approximately 0715 local time on Sunday, 17 April. Eight tugs assisted in the operation that was coordinated by a Donjon-Smit salvage team. The vessel will now proceed to an anchorage for a hull survey.
In addition to Donjon-Smit, the US Coast Guard, the Maryland Department of Environment, the Maryland Port Administration, and the Maryland Environmental Services were also involved in the refloat operation.
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 4964 containers aboard.
Dredging and containers removed
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 Ever Forward at approximately 7 a.m.
‘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,’ says 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 minimising 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.
To anchorage for survey
Port of Baltimore director William Doyle says the Ever Forward will remain at the Annapolis anchorage site to undergo a survey/scanning of the vessel’s hull. The Annapolis anchorage site is visible from Bay Bridge and is the location where deep sea ships anchor while awaiting orders to proceed.
The Hong-Kong flagged container ship operated by Evergreen, reported to be carrying general cargo, departed Baltimore on Sunday 13 March and was en route to Norfolk, Virginia, when it grounded in Chesapeake Bay. The Ever Forward was built in 2020 and is 334 metres long and 48 metres wide. The vessel is not blocking shipping traffic.
Evergreen has hired salvage company Donjon-Smit to refloat the grounded container ship. Donjon-Smit is a joint venture of Donjon Marine Co. and Smit Salvage. The latter (with parent company Boskalis) was also responsible for refloating the Ever Given, which ran aground in the Suez Canal in March 2021 and blocked the Canal for almost a week.
Pictures by the US Coast Guard.