Container ship stranded near Baltimore delights onlookers and worries environmentalists

posted on Friday, April 15, 2022 at 8:22 PM

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

On this spring morning in April, the curious gather in a park in the city of Pasadena, Maryland, to enjoy a privileged view of the boat, sunk in almost twenty feet of mud, a few hundred meters from the shore.

“Even with the storms we have here on the bay, we don’t have ships running aground like this,” said Frederick Schroeder, a retiree who came from East Baltimore with his camera and telephoto lens to document the scene, “a once in a lifetime opportunity.” life,” he said.

On the night of March 13-14, the giant of the seas owned by the Taiwanese company Evergreen, 334 meters long and capable of transporting nearly 12,000 containers, found itself immobilized in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, after having lost a drift into deeper water. .

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

The bay thus bathes the Port of Virginia and Baltimore, respectively the second and third largest ports on the East Coast of the United States.

– Dredgers and tugboats –

The misadventure of the ironically named Ever Forward (“always forward”) is reminiscent of that of the Ever Given, another Evergreen container ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal in March 2021, blocking traffic for almost a week.

The US Coast Guard has been at work trying to get the Ever Forward afloat for more than three weeks, with the help of tugboats and dredge boats. No success so far.

Over the past few days, cranes have been busy around the ship unloading as many of its containers as possible to lighten it.

Asked by AFP, the coast guard said that more than 130 containers had already been unloaded but that there should be more before a new refloating attempt, whose date is yet to be determined.

“The captain who ran aground must be very ashamed,” supposes John Zeglin, a retiree in his late 80s, who came to see the Ever Forward “out of curiosity” with his companion from Bethesda, outside Washington, just over an hour’s drive away. car. .

But if onlookers gather on the shores to watch the ship, its stranding is above all a cause for concern for environmentalists.

– “Epicenter” of ospreys –

Doug Myers, a scientist with the environmental association Chesapeake Bay Foundation, is alarmed to AFP by the risk of the hull breaking, which could release hundreds of liters of fuel oil.

“Any time a ship runs aground, you have this 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 dredging operations, Doug Myers is also concerned that the ship could list and lose containers in the bay.

“There is already damage just from the boat running aground in shallow waters, these sandbanks (…) contain clams and worms, and other very important habitats for fish,” he laments.

Out of the water, birds are most at risk of an oil leak, at a time when migratory birds stop at the bay or even nest there during the summer.

“The bay is kind of the epicenter of osprey abundance,” says Doug Myers, who cares about these birds of prey.

The scientist regrets that until now the authorities have not taken into account the environmental risks and now he wants a protective cordon to be placed around the Ever Forward to prevent oil leaks.

Because if, according to him, the danger is not “imminent”, such a leak could reach the coasts on both sides of the bay in one or a few hours.

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

“A lot of people get their income directly or indirectly from the bay, whether it’s through tourism, fishing or ownership of the water.”

Leave a Comment