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A container ship named Ever Forward has been stuck in the Chesapeake Bay for 18 days

Tugboats pull on the Ever Forward near Pasadena, Md., on Tuesday, trying to free the ship as it sits in the Chesapeake Bay after running aground near Baltimore.
Jim Watson
/
AFP via Getty Images
Tugboats pull on the Ever Forward near Pasadena, Md., on Tuesday, trying to free the ship as it sits in the Chesapeake Bay after running aground near Baltimore.

There's something gleeful about a big ship getting stuck. Maybe it's their massive size, and the often fruitless plight to make them budge.

The Ever Forward had just loaded up with cargo in Baltimore and was heading south to Norfolk, Va., when it ran aground on March 13. The container ship apparently missed a turn leaving Baltimore, causing it to end up in the shallows off Pasadena, Md., where it remains.

That's right: A 1,095-foot ship called Ever Forward has been lodged there for nearly three weeks.

Efforts to free the ship so far have been unsuccessful. One try, on Tuesday, involved five tugboats: two pushing on the starboard side, two pulling from the port side, and one pulling from the stern. You can watch a long, unmomentous video of this effort below.

The Port of Baltimore's executive director, William Doyle, says a second attempt will be made in coming days "using two anchored pulling barges from the stern and five tugs."

Work is also underway to dredge to a depth of 43 feet, according to the Coast Guard — essentially digging around the boat so it can be floated.

As we mentioned, the ship is full of cargo — and weighs roughly 130,000 tons.

Coast Guard Capt. Dave O'Connell told NPR this week that the ship needs a depth of 42 feet of water in order to operate. "And where it is stuck is 24 feet of water," he said. "It's buried about 15 feet or so into the mud. So that's a lot."

To lighten the load, fuel will be siphoned off, and some of the water that's carried as ballast will be discharged. But it's crucial that the ship stay balanced.

"Containers are stacked five, six stories high. You know, you slide containers off of it — that would be a bad situation," O'Connell said.

The stuck ship is reminiscent of the saga of the Ever Given, which like the Ever Forward is owned by the Taiwan-based Evergreen Marine Corp. You may remember how the Ever Given blocked the Suez Canal for six days last March, causing major disruptions to shipping and a nice distraction from the pandemic.

People have been coming to see the Ever Forward in Chesapeake Bay — still stuck after 18 days.
Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images
/
AFP via Getty Images
People have been coming to see the Ever Forward in Chesapeake Bay — still stuck after 18 days.

This situation in this case isn't so dire: The Ever Forward isn't blocking the channel, so other ships can get around it — though there is a 500-yard "safety zone" surrounding the vessel. People have begun making pilgrimages to see the stuck boat offshore.

Among those containers on board: All the belongings of reporter Tracy Alloway at Bloomberg News, who was shipping everything she and her husband own to complete their move from Hong Kong to New York City.

"We are at the whims of the tide and the salvage crew of the Ever Forward," Alloway told NBC's Washington affiliate. "Everything except the three or four bags that my husband took on the plane. The entire contents of our apartment, all of our furniture, lots of books, things of sentimental value are all in a container stuck in the Chesapeake Bay."

Who will pay for the additional costs of the Ever Forward running aground? It likely won't all fall on the vessel's owner, due to a maritime principle known as "general average," which Evergreen Marine declared on Thursday — it establishes that cargo owners share in the liability too.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.
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