As a 1,095-foot cargo ship remained stranded in the Chesapeake Bay Friday, environmental experts raised concerns about a potential oil spill as crews worked to free the ship from the mud that it’s stuck in.
“It’s so far aground that about 20 feet of the ship is buried in mud,” said Doug Myers, a scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an advocacy group focused on improving the Bay.
“That has a tendency to put stress on the hull, and even though it’s not carrying oil, a ship that big would have large amounts of fuel,” Myers added. “Until the ship is freed, we’re concerned that the stress could rupture the hull and cause a fuel leak.”
The Ever Forward was headed from the Port of Baltimore to Norfolk, Virginia, on March 13 when it ran aground north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
The ship, operated by Taiwan-based Evergreen Marine, became stranded outside the shipping channel. Officials have said there were no reports of injuries, damage or pollution.
Myers said he is worried that not enough is being done to plan for the containment of a potential spill.
“My hope is that there’s no damage or stress to the hull that might cause an oil spill, but that’s all a big unknown at this point,” Myers said. “The one thing they’re doing that did give me some comfort is that every four hours, the ship’s crew is doing routine inspections of the fuel tanks to make sure they don’t see any leaking oil.”
An oil spill there could affect nearby oyster reefs and recreational fishing areas.
“Any fuel that spilled would travel some distance from that as well,” Myers said.
Evergreen said that a plan to refloat the Ever Forward involves dredging the bay’s muddy floor and using tugboats and the ship’s main engine to free the vessel.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.