The 1,095-footEver Forward cargo ship that has been mired in the mud of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland for more than a month was dislodged and refloated early Sunday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
The massive cargo ship, which ran aground in shallow water 36 days ago, was yanked from a mound of mud by two pulling barges and six tugboats working in tandem around 7 a.m., the Coast Guard said.
"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," Capt. David O’Connell, commander of Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region, said in a statement. “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 minimizing economic impacts."
The ship was extricated after crews spent the last week using two large cranes on barges to offload around 500 of the nearly 4,900 containers aboard to make the vessel buoyant enough for the tugboats to pry it loose, officials said.
The Ever Forward, which is owned by Evergreen Marine Corp., was being towed by five tugboats to a ship parking area near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The Hong Kong-flagged ship will eventually head back to the Seagirt marine terminal in Baltimore to pick up the containers that were taken off before resuming its voyage to Norfolk, Virginia, officials said.
"We are deeply appreciative of the efforts put forth by the U.S. Coast Guard, Maryland Port Administration, local and federal Environmental Protection Agencies, and the many private service providers that were engaged, all of whom worked tirelessly to bring this event to a successful conclusion," Evergreen said in a statement.
Two previous attempts to free the vessel were not successful. Crews had tried to move the fully loaded ship with multiple tugboats, but it wouldn't budge. Crews also attempted dredging around the hull of the big boat, but that effort was in vain as well.
The refloating situation had gone so badly that Evergreen Marine Corp. notified anyone with a container on board that they would need to share in the cost of freeing the ship under the law of general average, a principal of maritime law dating back to 1890.
An estimated cost of extracting the ship has not been made public.
The Coast Guard said the Ever Forward got stuck on March 13 in about 23 feet of water off Downs Park in Pasadena, Maryland, about 20 miles south of Baltimore. The ship had just departed the Seagirt marine terminal and, for reasons that remain under investigation, was traveling outside of the deep-water shipping channel when it ran aground, the Coast Guard said.
No one was injured, and inspections showed that no fuel or pollution leaked from the ship into the Chesapeake Bay, according to the Coast Guard.
The ship did not block the shipping channel, officials said.
Evergreen is the same company that owns the Ever Given cargo ship that got stuck in Egypt's Suez Canal in March 2021, blocking the world-famous waterway for six days and causing massive delays in global shipping.