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In a Change of Plan, Salvors Will Lighter Cargo Off of Ever Forward

bill doyle ever forward
Ever Forward aground (image courtesy William Doyle)

Published Apr 4, 2022 11:01 PM by The Maritime Executive

After multiple attempts to tow the grounded container ship Ever Forward to deeper water, salvors have decided to give up the attempt and lighter off cargo to reduce the ship's displacement. 

The 1,100-foot Ever Forward grounded on March 13 while transiting south in the Chesapeake Bay towards Norfolk, Virginia. Donjon Smit was appointed to undertake the salvage, with the U.S. Coast Guard supervising a unified command for the response. An initial assessment determined that it would be a challenging refloat operation because the vessel had driven her bow deep into the mud when she left the shipping channel.

The salvage team has determined that they are not able to overcome the ground force of the Ever Forward in her current loaded condition, even with half a dozen tugs and two pulling barges at their disposal, the Coast Guard said in a statement Monday. They will continue a dredging operation to dig out around the ship to a depth of 43 feet, and they will bring in two crane barges to hoist off containers from Ever Forward's decks. 

The containers will be removed during daylight hours from both sides of the ship and will be lowered onto deck barges for lightering. These barges will shuttle the containers back to Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore - the same place where they were originally loaded onto the ship. 

According to the Baltimore Sun, the plan calls for removing a few hundred of the 4,964 containers aboard Ever Forward, but the majority of the cargo will stay on board. As shipowner Evergreen has declared general average for the casualty, cargo owners may have to post a GA bond before they can recover any of the boxes that are returned to Seagirt.

Once the containers are removed, the salvage team will attempt to pull Ever Forward free again. The operation is expected to take about two weeks, depending upon the weather. A 500-yard safety zone around the ship remains in effect, and marine traffic can still transit the shipping channel in one direction at a time while lightering is under way.