The massive cargo ship that ran aground in the Chesapeake Bay and stayed stuck for more than a month was finally refloated Sunday — but much work is still ahead.
The Ever Forward is expected to remain anchored in the bay for at least a few more days, and then it will be checked for what could be extensive damage.
Sunday marked a victory crews worked hard to reach. After 35 days stuck in the mud, two failed attempts to pull the 1,000-foot ship out, weeks of dredging and work to offload 500 containers, the Ever Forward was refloated Sunday morning.
But the ship didn’t go far. Tugboats pulled it just south of the Bay Bridge, close to the iconic Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse. That’s where the ship will be anchored for the short term.
“They brought her down there because they have to do a hull survey, so they’ve got to send divers into the water and run the entire length of the hull,” said Salvatore Mercogliano, a professor of maritime history at Campbell University. “It’s probably take a couple of days to get the full hull survey. They’ll be down inside the vessel too, going down into double bottoms, so — a hull inspection inside and out.”
The ship got stuck leaving Baltimore’s Harbor on March 13. It missed a turn in the shipping channel, leaving the supersized container ship in about 20 feet of water; it needs 42 feet. The ship’s entire hull rested on the floor of the bay, almost certainly causing damage, Mercogliano said.
The Ever Forward’s sister ship, the Ever Given, was stuck in the mud of the Suez Canal last year. Photos show serious damage.
“That damage you saw to Ever Given where the bulbous bow was crumpled up into the vessel, that wasn’t caused by running into the side of the canal. That was caused by six days sitting on that bow and rocking back and forth," Mercogliano said. "An engineer told me to expect it to look like the bottom of a Coke can that’s been crumpled, that’s because she’s been sitting with all that weight on top of it."
Once the Ever Forward is certified as seaworthy, the ship will return to Baltimore to reload the 500 containers that were taken off and then head to its next scheduled port, which is Norfolk. The ship will then head to New York and home to Asia, where it will be sent to dry-dock for repairs. If the ship is not seaworthy, repairs could be made while anchored or it could be taken to a nearby port.
There’s still no word from the Coast Guard or National Transportation Safety Board as to the cause of the Ever Forward getting stuck. The cost of refloating the ship is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars.