More than five weeks after running aground, a massive cargo ship called the Ever Forward was freed on Sunday from the muddy bottom of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, according to the US Coast Guard. It was the largest ship ever stuck in the bay.
The long-running rescue of the 1,095-foot vessel was the culmination of weeks of work. Teams of naval architects, scuba divers, and the largest clamshell dredge in the Western Hemisphere all worked to free the Ever Forward from the mud. At least 210,000 cubic yards of mud was dredged around the boat, enough to fill about 64 Olympic swimming pools.
When that didn’t work, beginning in April, cranes working 12 hours a day unloaded 500 of the Ever Forward’s 5,000 shipping containers onto waiting barges, which took to the cargo back to the ship’s starting port in Baltimore.
The reduction in weight allowed the massive container ship to rise an extra half a foot, allowing a team of boats to then pull it across a dredged hole, and back into a 50-foot channels where the Ever Forward could float freely.
A full moon, favourable winds, and a high tide all gave the rescue effort an extra push, according to maritime officials.
Now maritime inspectors will investigate whether the hull was damaged as the Ever Forward sat in the mud. If the ship remains sound, it will return to the port of Baltimore, pick the unloaded containers back up, and head for its original destination of Norfolk, Virginia.
The ship is owned by Evergreen Marine Corp, the same Taiwanese shipping company that owns Ever Given, the massive cargo ship that had an accident that blocked the Suez Canal in 2021, freezing nearly $10bn in global trade a day.
The Independent has contacted Evergreen for comment.
Unlike the Ever Given fiasco, the Ever Forward’s grounding did not halt trade in and out of the region, according to port officials, who also noted there were no injuries or pollution stemming the incident.
Now that it’s free, officials will investigate what caused the ship to get stuck.
Under Maryland law, an expert local pilot is required to guide ships in and out of local waters. The identity of the pilot who guided Ever Given remains unknown.
The Independent has asked the Association of Maryland Pilots for comment.
Goods ranging from furniture to graphic novels were reportedly aboard the ship.
Like the Ever Given before it, this shipping incident attracted onlookers and jokes.
“It’s a unique situation,” Maarten Maarschalkerweerd, a civil engineer who regularly watched the rescue mission, told The Baltimore Sun. “I’m a civil engineer; it’s in my blood.”
“March is International Evergreen Marine Corp Container Ship Runs Aground Month,” one Twitter user joke last month, along with a .gif of someone driving a cart that’s stuck in a hallway, superimposed with the ship ontop. “What are you doing to celebrate?”