The Ever Forward container ship, which went aground March 13 in the Chesapeake Bay, was finally freed Sunday morning shortly after 7.
The 1,095-foot vessel, owned by the Taiwanese company Evergreen Marine Corp., was en route from the port of Baltimore to Norfolk when it somehow turned out of a shipping channel and got stuck in the Chesapeake Bay near the Bay Bridge. The reason for the ship’ departure from the shipping channel and grounding is still under investigation, according to Chris James, the director of response operations for Witt O’Brien’s, a Houston-based firm hired by Evergreen Marine.
The huge boat — whose length is just 155 feet shy of the height of the Empire State Building to its top floor — was carrying about 4,900 containers, and crews had to remove exactly 500 of them to lighten the boat’s weight. Crews also had to dredge about 20 feet of material — dirt, sand, clay and mud from the bay floor — on both of its sides to pull the boat back into the shipping channel.
After it was freed, the Ever Forward had a new, but much easier problem to solve: Without all those containers — each weighing an average of about 15 tons or 14,000 kilograms — the boat was now too tall to pass underneath the Bay Bridge, just south of where it had been stuck. Quickly, though, she took on a sizable volume of “ballast water” from the bay to sink it lower into the water and, shortly afterwards, made it past the bridge.
Then, by 10:30 a.m., the Ever Forward anchored so that it could complete a “survey” or inspection by a group of maritime experts hired by the company, according to James. Although divers had already determined its hull had not suffered any major damage from being grounded, the boat still needed to make a pit stop for another round of scrutiny. Once the Coast Guard signs off on the inspection — expected to be finished by tomorrow at the latest — the boat is free to carry on.
Then, the Ever Forward will turn around and head north, back to the port of Baltimore. There, it will retrieve the 500 containers that had been removed and stored for safekeeping while the boat awaited its liberation. Once it picks up its belongings, the Ever Forward will head south once again and resume its trip to Norfolk, James said.
This story will be updated.