Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot is urging the company that owns a cargo ship that ran aground in the Chesapeake Bay to start a $100 million responsibility fund that can be used to pay for any economic or environmental impact caused by the incident.
In a letter to Benjamin Tsai, president of Evergreen Shipping Agency (America) Corporation, which owns the ship, Franchot said while a lot remains unknown about what led to the ship Ever Forward getting stuck on March 13, the situation has already damaged the environment and could lead to more damage in the days to come.
“While we do not know the full scope of the environmental impact thus far, a 131,420-ton ship, carrying tons of cargo and fuel, getting stuck in our waters undoubtedly has resulted in disruptions to the Bay’s fragile ecosystem,” Franchot wrote.
One concern when it comes to the environment, according to Franchot, is the dredging that has taken place around the ship in order to get it floating again.
“While this may have been a necessary action, among its potential consequences include damage to oyster beds and disruptions to the spawning season for several species that our seafood industry — already struggling economically due to labor shortages — will harvest in the coming months,” Franchot said.
He also said another big concern is the danger of a hull breach that could send oil into the bay. He said a spill would result in an “economic catastrophe” for the state, region and country.
In the letter, he said that the state has taken many steps over many years to restore the health and vitality of the waterway, including securing resources and putting new policies in place.
“The damage that this incident has already caused — and could potentially continue to cause — will require financial resources to correct,” Franchot wrote.
Franchot said the money from the fund would be used for things, such as paying for labor hours and resources that federal, state and local agencies have spent trying to free the ship. The money could also be used as potential compensation for impact to watermen and the seafood industry during the harvest season.
“The establishment of this fund will send a clear message that Evergreen is a good faith actor; understands the environmental and economic damage this incident has caused to the state of Maryland,” Franchot said.
WTOP has reached out to the shipping agency for comment.
The call for a responsibility fund comes as the Coast Guard continues its work to try and free the ship.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Breanna Centeno with the Coast Guard told WTOP that as of Thursday, 233 containers have been removed from the ship. The goal is to get around 500 of the some 5,000 containers offloaded before trying to free it again as early as this weekend during a high-tide period.