Container ship was on way to Norfolk when it ran aground in Chesapeake Bay

BALTIMORE, Md. (WAVY) – The owner of the Ever Forward container ship will have to pay more than $600,000 to restore oyster bars in the area of the Chesapeake Bay where it ran aground last March after a vote Wednesday from Maryland’s Board of Public Works.

The board approved a wetlands license requiring the container ship’s owner, Evergreen Marine Corp. (Taiwan) Ltd., to pay $676,200 for the seeding of oyster bars as mitigation due to the effects the vessel’s grounding and refloating had on aquatic habitat. It was approved without discussion.

The state’s Department of Natural Resources’ Shellfish Division determined the estimated current market cost to complete 41 acres of enhancement and seeding is $588,000, and after consulting the department, the state Department of the Environment recommended increasing the mitigation payment by 15% to account for a potential market rate increase.

“The seeding of oyster bars will contribute to an improved aquatic habitat and provide long term water quality benefits,” said Deputy Secretary/Acting Secretary of the Environment Suzanne E. Dorsey in a statement. “From the time that the Ever Forward was grounded to the refloating of the vessel to the issuance of this wetlands license and its special conditions, the Maryland Department of the Environment has been on the job to ensure that the Chesapeake Bay and its habitat for oysters and other aquatic life are protected.”

The Hong Kong-flagged, 1,095.7-foot Ever Forward was heading to Norfolk from Baltimore – leaving the Seagirt Marine Terminal around 6;12 p.m. March 13 – when it ran aground and could not be moved for more than 35 days.

A Coast Guard investigation report said inattention due to a pilot’s texting, making a series of phone calls and drafting an email was the root cause of the container ship’s grounding.

An emergency wetlands license was issued last year following the grounding to allow for dredging in the area to refloat the Ever Forward, which impacted about 14 acres of the Chesapeake Bay bottom, including 11.5 acres (501,350 square feet) within the boundary of a natural oyster bar.

The vessel was freed after dredging was completed to a 43-foot depth and resulted in 206,280 cubic yards of material dredged.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources issued a report with the results indicating potential impacts to the natural oyster bar and aquatic habitat.

The board’s action ratified the emergency license by requiring Evergreen Marine Corp. to deal with the impacts of the dredging operations, and the board’s decision requires it to pay the Department of Natural Resources for its enhancement and reseeding of 41 acres of oyster bars to satisfy the mitigation requirement.

Due to the Ever Forward’s grounding impacts being within Anne Arundel County, locations there will be a priority for the reseeding efforts.