Posted on January 9, 2023
Maryland is requiring Evergreen Marine Corp., operators of the containership Ever Forward (127,000 dwt) that grounded in the Chesapeake Bay in March 2022 to pay fines for the restoration of aquatic habitat. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources studied the impact of the grounding and subsequent refloating effort on the marine environment and recommended the amount of the fine.
After the grounding on March 13, 2022, and the failed efforts to refloat the 1,096-foot-long vessel, a dredging effort was required along with lightening the vessel by removing approximately 500 containers. Maryland had issued an emergency wetlands license that allowed for the dredging operation.
The report issued to the Maryland Board of Public Works said that the grounding and subsequent dredging impacted about 14 acres of Chesapeake Bay bottom, including 11.5 acres within the boundary of a natural oyster bar. The report found that there had been little direct impact on the oyster population in the area but also points to the area as a favored habitat for blue crabs during the winter months. Again, the report found a very small direct impact on the crab population but expressed concerns that the crab population might have been dispersed impacting future fishing operations.
At a meeting on January 4, the Maryland Board of Public Works made modifications to the emergency wetlands license that requires Evergreen to pay $676,200. The amount was determined by the Natural Resources’ Shellfish Division which estimated the costs at $588,000 and was increased by 15 percent to cover potential increases in market rates.
The monies will be used for the enhancement of oyster bars to mitigate the effects on aquatic habitats caused by the grounding and refloating operation. Maryland noted the environmental contribution of oysters to the waterway as they act as a natural filter removing algae and other harmful nutrients from the water. Maryland plans to reseed oysters in 41 acres of Chesapeake Bay.
The U.S. Coast Guard issued its report on the grounding citing the lack of attention by the ship’s pilot who they reported was using a cellphone and texting when the ship missed a critical turn on its route in the Chesapeake Bay. They also called for better training by Evergreen and other shipping companies of their bridge crews citing that the team on the bridge was aware that the ship missed the turn but did not directly alert the pilot. The Ever Forward remained aground for 35 days with Evergreen declaring General Average at the end of March after the first efforts to refloat the vessel were not successful.