The Ever Forward container ship was freed Sunday morning after being stuck in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland for over a month, the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed.
The cargo ship was finally freed around 7 a.m. after having run aground in the bay 35 days ago, when the salvage operation began on March 13.
This was the third attempt to free the nearly 1,100-foot vessel. It was traveling from Baltimore to Norfolk when it got stuck in at least 10 feet of mud while attempting a turn near the Bay Bridge.
It was grounded in the Chesapeake Bay near the Craighill channel.
“If you’ve ever been in a marsh, and you’ve stepped in the marsh with your boot, and then you try to pull it out and your foot comes out, but not the boot. This is kind of the same thing on a grander scale,” Coast Guard Captain David O’Connell told CBS on Saturday.
Gov. Larry Hogan thanked the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Port of Baltimore and the U.S. Coast Guard for their assistance in refloating the ship.
Evergreen Marine Corporation, which owns the ship, had planned to remove 500 of the nearly 4,900 containers on board to lighten its weight.
Refloating the Ever Forward, which was aground outside of the navigation channel along the entire length of the ship’s hull, required extensive coordination of responders and involved dredging and push-and-pull tugboat operations, according to a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard 5th District.
“We appreciate the steady partnership with the Coast Guard, Evergreen Marine Corporation and all the other agencies that worked to prevent pollution and protect the Chesapeake Bay,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “We remain focused on moving forward to the environmental restoration and compensation phase.”
Dredging was completed to a depth of 43 feet, resulting in 206,280 cubic yards of material being dredged and taken to Poplar Island, according to the release.
The material is being used to offset erosion at the Paul S. Sarbanes Ecosystem Restoration project, the release said. For safety and balance purposes, containers from both the port and starboard sides of the ship were removed and placed on receiving barges during daylight hours only.
“The vastness and complexity of this response were historic, as an incident like the Ever Forward grounding, in type and duration, is a rare occurrence,” said Capt. David O’Connell, commander of Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region.
“It was the collaboration of each responding agency, Evergreen Marine Corporation, and dedicated responders that resulted in the successful refloating of Ever Forward while ensuring the safety of the public and response personnel, mitigating pollution potential and minimizing economic impacts.”
The containers were then taken to their original onboarding facility at the Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore, and offloaded by shore-based handling gear.
After the containers were removed, two pulling barges, two tugs from Donjon-SMIT, two tugs from Moran and two tugs from McAllister freed the Ever Forward at approximately 7 a.m. Sunday.
About a year ago, Ever Forward’s sister ship, Ever Given, got stuck in the Suez Canal for around a week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.