General Average Declared on Ever Forward as Salvage Costs Grow
After two failed salvage attempts and with the prospects that the Ever Forward will remain stuck in the mud for possibly another week, her owners Evergreen Marine of Hong Kong today declared General Average. Evergreen had warned a week ago that it would evaluate the issue of General Average based on the progress of the refloating operation.
The 1,095-foot containership grounded 18 days ago after departing Baltimore and while traveling south in the Chesapeake Bay toward its next port of call in Norfolk, Virginia. Donjon Smit was appointed to undertake the salvage with the U.S. Coast Guard supervising a unified command involving Maryland environmental and port officials. They determined that it would be a difficult refloating effort because the vessel had driven her bow deep into the mud leaving the shipping channel.
“Considering that the complexity of further rescue operations will require more manpower, equipment, and costs to refloat the stranded vessel as soon as possible, Evergreen has for cautionary purposes declared General Average and nominated Richards Hogg Lindley as the GA adjuster,” the company said in a statement issued to cargo owners today hours after the second refloating effort failed. “Evergreen Line urges all cargo interests involved, and joint venture slot users to provide security bonds and necessary documents according to the adjusting rules that govern GA in order to take delivery of cargo after the vessel is freed and arrives at its future ports of discharge.”
General Average is a historic part of the law whereby cargo owners share in the efforts to rescue the ship and their cargoes. Under general average, the costs to save a vessel and its cargo, such as damage to the Ever Forward, are shared among all parties with interest in the voyage - the shipowner, the cargo owners, and others. It is typically reserved for extreme events such as significant damage to cargo during a voyage or strandings such as this event. It was invoked last year by Evergreen when the Ever Given became stuck in the Suez Canal and Egypt detained the vessel until a settlement was reached over the salvage of the ship.
According to a U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson after last night’s failed effort to free the ship, they expected dredging to resume to a depth of 43 feet. They said the next effort to refloat that vessel was tentatively set for April 4 based on the dredging effort. Details of the salvage plan previously announced said that they would add two pulling barges from the stern and five tugs in addition to a tug on the bow pulling aft for what will be the third attempt. In the first attempt, they used five tugs and the second used seven attempting to pull and push the vessel into the channel. If the next refloating attempt fails it is believed that they would begin trying to lighten the vessel by removing containers which could be a costly and time-consuming operation.
Claims consultant WK Webster reported, “We also confirm having instructed an expert marine surveyor to investigate the cause of the grounding of the vessel so that we may evaluate the merits of any potential defenses to contribution in GA that may be available to cargo interests in due course.”
Evergreen Line attested to the cargo owners that it has been making every effort to refloat the stranded ship on behalf of the common interests of cargo owners and the safety of all involved. The vessel remains outside the shipping lane meaning the traffic continues to move on the Chesapeake while the U.S. Coast Guard and others are closely monitoring for any signs of damage or leaks that could cause environmental damage.