(NewsNation) — The Ever Forward, a 117,000-ton ship carrying more than 5,000 shipping containers full of items destined for the U.S. market, has been stuck firmly in the Chesapeake Bay for three weeks.
Ships need a certain depth of water, known as their draft, to operate. Fully loaded, the Ever Forward has a 42-foot draft, but according to maritime historian Sal Mercagliano, a simple wrong turn in the bay led the ship into 24-foot waters and created a precarious situation for anyone wanting to rescue craft and its cargo.
The longer the ship sits immobile, the greater the chance of damage from storms or other causes, but to get it free it’s got to be lightened so its draft decreases, sort of like when people get out of a canoe and it starts floating more readily. The problem in this case is that the cargo has to be unloaded with great care to avoid putting too much stress on the ship and, most importantly, to keep it upright.
“That’s going to be a long, laborious process to get that weight off. And you got to be careful about taking the weight off too, so that the vessel doesn’t heel, or tip to one side,” said Mercagliano.
At nearly 1,100 feet long, the Ever Forward is no small impediment to maritime traffic in the bay, but fortunately the wrong turn that left it stranded also took it out of the main traffic lanes. It has, however, become something of a tourist attraction. Ship watcher Sophia McDowell said, “I’ve just been fascinated by it. I’ve been fascinated,” while Sibyl Cochran said, “We’ve heard so much about it. I just wanted to see what it looked like stationary.”
Ships entering and leaving U.S. ports are required to have a pilot on board, someone certified in navigating the waters in and out of the port area. The Ever Forward did have one, so how it ended up stranded is still unknown. Initial efforts to pull the ship loose using tugboats were unsuccessful, so now it’s time to call in the cargo experts and hope the ship can be offloaded safely.