Chesapeake Bay

Shipping Company Invokes Maritime Law to Help Pay for Freeing Cargo Ship From Chesapeake Bay

NBC Universal, Inc.

The U.S. Coast Guard approved a new plan to refloat a massive cargo ship that’s been stuck in the Chesapeake Bay for almost three weeks, and the shipping company is invoking a maritime law that will affect everyone who has something on the ship.

Crews tried and failed for the second day in a row Wednesday to make any progress moving the Ever Forward out of the mud. 

The new plan is to dredge down 42 feet and then attach the ship to two huge barges using cranes and tugboats to pull it out.

“They really want to avoid trying to get containers off this vessel, because that is a huge, laborious, expensive process,” said Sal Mercogliano, a maritime history professor at Campbell University.

“They’re going to keep dredging and eventually there going to get it free … She’s not going to become a permanent mooring out there,” he said.

As an indication of just how big a job it’s going to be to remove the ship, the company that owns the ship Thursday invoked a maritime law declaring what’s called “general average,” which means anyone who has cargo on the ship will be responsible for a portion of the cost of rescuing it.

“If you are shipping goods on that vessel and you don’t have insurance for it, you may become liable for additional handling costs, transportation costs, which you would have to pay or bond the cargo out before you can receive it,” Mercogliano said.

It’s too early to know how much it could cost, and what, if anything, companies with cargo on the ship could be charged.

The cost is based on the prorated value of the belongings on the ship, and not paying is like abandoning a storage unit.

The company would have the right to sell that stuff off to recover its money, but it would play out in lawsuits and take years to resolve.

The plan is to dredge until Wednesday and then try pulling Ever Forward out.

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