By Cristina Mendez

BALTIMORE, MD (WJZ) — The Ever Forward—a wayward Hong-Kong-flagged cargo ship—has been refloated after being stuck in the Chesapeake Bay for weeks.

The Ever Forward ran aground 24 feet deep into the mud on March 13. It was finally rescued via a 35-day-long salvage operation, according to authorities.

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The U.S. Coast Guard, Maryland Department of the Environment, and other state and local responders made two unsuccessful refloat attempts on March 29 and March 30, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.

Crews dug out at least 84,000 cubic yards of mud from around the vessel. The Department of the Environment said that’s about 27 barges worth of mud.

Salvage experts eventually determined that they would not be able to move the Ever Forward with the 4,964 containers it was carrying aboard, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.

The U.S. Coast Guard and other coordinators removed 500 containers using crane barges between April 9 and April 16 during daylight hours only, according to authorities.

The cargo ship was finally free to move forward around 11 a.m.

“The vastness and complexity of this response were historic, as an incident like the Ever Forward grounding, in type and duration, is a rare occurrence,” Capt. David O’Connell, commander of Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region, said. “It was the collaboration of each responding agency, Evergreen Marine Corporation, and dedicated responders that resulted in the successful refloating of Ever Forward while ensuring the safety of the public and response personnel, mitigating pollution potential, and minimizing economic impacts.”

Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said that his department remains focused “on moving forward to the environmental restoration and compensation phase.”

In an interview with WJZ, Geoffrey Donahue, the director of the Emergency Preparedness and Response division of the Maryland Department of Environment, said this involves examining the dredged area now that the cargo ship has moved.

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“We had to do some dredging,” Donahue said.” Part of that involves a natural oyster bar that is in that area, so there is impact to that because of the grounding and obviously the removal of the habitat there.”

On April 14, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot sent a letter to the Ever Forward’s owner, Evergreen, outlining his concerns about the environmental impact of the stuck ship.

“I am calling on Ever Green to establish an initial $100 million Responsibility Fund now, from which relevant parties can begin receiving compensation or reimbursement for the impact this incident caused,” Franchot said. “This includes reimbursement for labor hours and resources that federal, state and local agencies have directed towards this effort, and potential compensation for watermen and the seafood industry for this incident’s impact on their harvest season.”

During an interview with WJZ, Franchot said Evergreen did something similar after the Suez Canal incident.

“The state of Maryland needs to demand there be a fund set up and we have a very blistering letter, a clear letter, an emphatic letter to the leadership of the Taiwanese company that they need to step up and do the right thing,” Franchot said.

The Ever Forward will be towed to the Annapolis Anchorage Grounds for inspection, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.

It will reload the containers that had been removed and continue its voyage to its next port of call in Norfolk, Virginia, according to authorities.

The last time something like this happened was last year a ship owned by the same company, the Ever Given, got stuck and blocked the Suez Canal in Egypt, and that disrupted billions of dollars a day in global trade.

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Cristina Mendez