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Maryland bans cellphone use by cargo ship pilots after grounding in Chesapeake Bay

Posted on January 12, 2023

State regulators on Friday banned cargo ship pilots from using personal cellphones on Maryland waters.

The Maryland Board of Pilots, which oversees cargo ship pilots, approved a rule change 10 months after, and in direct response to, the Ever Forward’s weekslong grounding in the Chesapeake Bay.

Instead of leading the team on the bridge of the Ever Forward, the pilot was on his phone for an hour, texting, sending emails and taking screenshots before running aground and getting stuck for 45 days, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

“The job of a state-licensed pilot requires absolute attention and focus on the job of safety piloting, navigating maneuvering, anchoring docking or undocking a vessel in pilotage waters,” said Sandy Steeves, chairman of the Maryland Board of Pilots.

The language of the rule provided to 11 News does not address penalties, but Maryland is now one of the few states to ban the kind of behavior behind this crash.

State regulators said they’re filling a crucial gap because there is no federal ban on cellphone use while working on the bridge of a cargo ship.

The board is the same body that suspended the pilot’s license last month.

This marks the second state action in response to the grounding. Earlier this week, the state issued a fine for the damage caused to oyster beds in the bay.


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