BALTIMORE (AP) — A container ship the length of more than three football fields has finally been pried from the muddy bottom of the Chesapeake Bay more than a month after it ran aground.
After two unsuccessful attempts to dislodge it, and the subsequent removal of roughly 500 of the 5,000 containers it was carrying, the Ever Forward was refloated just before 7 a.m. Sunday by two barges and five tugboats.
A full moon and high spring tide helped provide a lift to the salvage vessels as they pulled and pushed the massive ship from the mud, across a dredged hole and back into the shipping channel.
Once refloated, the Ever Forward was weighed down again by water tanks to ensure safe passage under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on its way to an anchorage off Annapolis, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Marine inspectors will examine the ship’s hull before the Coast Guard allows it to return to the Port of Baltimore to retrieve the offloaded containers.
The cargo ship, operated by Taiwan-based Evergreen Marine Corp., was traveling from Baltimore to Norfolk, Virginia, on March 13, when it ran aground just north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
Officials have said the grounding did not result in reports of injuries, damage or pollution. The Coast Guard has not said what caused the Ever Forward to run aground.
The ship became stuck outside the shipping channel and did not block marine navigation, unlike last year’s high-profile grounding in the Suez Canal of its sister vessel, the Ever Given. That incident disrupted ship traffic and the global supply chain for days.
Salvage crews continued to offload containers from the Ever Forward until 10:30 p.m. Saturday. The containers were placed onto barges and taken to Baltimore’s Seagirt Marine Terminal.
After two failed efforts to free the more than 1,000-foot (305-meter) vessel, salvage experts determined earlier this month that unloading some of the containers offered the best chance to refloat it. Crews also continued dredging to a depth of 43 feet (13 meters) around the vessel.