Container ship stuck near Baltimore delights curiosity and worries environmentalists

Posted on Friday, April 15, 2022 at 8:22 pm

They came with family or friends, they brought binoculars and folding chairs, all focused on the same thing: the container ship Ever Forward, which has been stranded for a month in the Chesapeake Bay on the east coast of the United States.

This spring morning in April, strangers gather in a park in Pasadena, Maryland, to enjoy a prime position on the ship, stuck in nearly six meters of mud, a few hundred meters offshore.

“Even with the storms we have here in the bay, we don’t have ships that ran aground like that,” said Frederic Schroeder, a retiree who came from East Baltimore with his camera and telephoto lens to document the scene. “The opportunity of a lifetime,” he said.

On the night of March 13-14, Taiwan’s Evergreen Co., a 334-meter giant sea giant that can carry nearly 12,000 containers, found itself steady in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, after missing a turn into deep water. .

Stretching from Virginia in the south to Maryland in the north, the Chesapeake Bay is a gigantic estuary with heavy sea traffic.

The Gulf thus floods the port of Virginia and Baltimore, which are respectively the second and third most important ports on the East Coast of the United States.

– Bulldozers and locomotives –

The paradoxical misadventure called Ever Forward (“always ahead”) reminds us of the EverGen, another ever evergreen container ship that was stuck through the Suez Canal in March 2021 blocking traffic for nearly a week.

The US Coast Guard has been working to try to get the Ever Forward ship on its feet for more than three weeks, with the help of tugs and dredging boats. Without success so far.

In recent days, cranes have been busy around the ship to rid it of as many of its containers as possible and thus lighten it.

In response to a question by AFP, the Coast Guard said that more than 130 containers have already been offloaded, but that more must be offloaded before a new attempt to re-float, the date of which has not yet been determined.

“The delinquent captain must be very embarrassed,” supposes John Ziglin, a retired about eight years old, who came to see Ever Forward “out of curiosity” with his companion from Bethesda, on the outskirts of Washington, just over an hour away. by car.

But if strangers gather on the beaches to observe the ship, its grounding is above all a concern for environmentalists.

– ‘Ospreys’ ‘focus’ –

Doug Myers, a scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Society, worries to AFP about the risk of the ship’s hull rupturing, which could release hundreds of liters of fuel oil.

“Every time a ship drifts, you have that risk,” explains the expert, who says he has a lot of experience with oil spills, having worked in Texas in the 1990s in particular.

With the dredging operations, Doug Myers is also concerned that the ship could list and lose containers in the bay.

“There is only damage from grounding the ship in shallow waters, these sandbars (…) contain clams, worms, and other very important habitats for fish,” he says.

Outside the water, birds are most at risk of oil seepage, while migratory birds stop in the bay or even nest there in summer.

“The bay is kind of the epicenter of the eagle’s glut,” says Doug Myers, who is concerned about these birds of prey.

The world regrets that the authorities have so far not taken into account the environmental risks and now want to put a protective collar around Ever Forward to prevent any oil spill.

Because if the danger is not “imminent,” he says, this spill could reach the beaches on both sides of the bay within an hour to a few hours.

“This berry means everything to Maryland,” says Doug Myers.

“A lot of people derive their income directly or indirectly from the Gulf, whether that’s through tourism, fishing, or ownership over the water.”

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