After two attempts to shift the Ever Forward from the muddy sea floor off Baltimore, the US Coast Guard has decided the best strategy now is a lightering operation, warning shippers with cargoes on the 12,000 teu ship that the refloating operation could take another two weeks.
Previously announced dredging will continue to a depth of 13.1 m and containers will now be removed as soon as the installation of two crane barges, with suitable lift heights to remove containers, are installed.
The containers will be removed in daylight hours only for safety purposes from both the port and starboard sides and placed on receiving barges. These barges will shuttle the containers back to their original onboarding facility, Seagrit Marine Terminal in Baltimore, where they will be offloaded by shore-based handling gear.
Once the containers are removed, tugs and pull barges will attempt another refloat. The shipping channel will remain open to one way traffic during these operations.
A 500 yard (457 m) safety zone around the ship in Chesapeake Bay will continue for the duration of the operation and the adjacent shipping channel will remain unaffected.
The Ever Forward salvage operation began on March 13 after the 334 m containership grounded in Chesapeake Bay near the Craighill Channel.
Sal Mercogliano, a maritime historian at Campbell University in North Carolina, who has been watching the Ever Forward accident closely, suggested in a video update last month that the Evergreen ship was exceeding the recommended speed, doing 13 knots as it slipped out of the main navigation corridor, the Craighill Channel, and grounded.
The vessel’s draft was 13 m at the time of the grounding whereas the depth of water at the location of the grounding is reported to have been only approximately 7.5 m.
Evergreen, the ship’s owner, declared general average late last week. General average means all parties involved with the cargo will have to share in the cost of the salvage operations. Evergreen declared similar a year ago with the Ever Given grounding incident in the Suez Canal.