(www.MaritimeCyprus.com) On March 13, 2022, at approximately 1812 Eastern Standard Time (EST), Hong-Kong flagged containership EVER FORWARD departed Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore, Maryland en route to Norfolk, Virginia with a licensed Maryland State Pilot, hereinafter referred to as “Pilot 1,” in direction and control of the vessel. The vessel’s departure was slightly delayed due to a line handling issue at the facility.
Pilot 1 was on the bridge with the Master and the bridge team until approximately 1930, when the Master departed the bridge to get dinner. At approximately 1950, the bridge team completed a scheduled watch relief, and a new Third Officer and Deck Cadet reported to the bridge. At this time, the bridge team was comprised of Pilot 1, the Third Officer, Deck Cadet, and an Able Bodied Seaman who was at the helm. At approximately 2017, the vessel passed its charted waypoint, marking a turn to approximately 180 degrees True that needed to be executed in accordance with the voyage plan. No order was given to turn the vessel and the helmsman maintained the previously ordered course of 161 degrees True. At 2018, Pilot 1 recognized the vessel was past its turn and ordered 15 degrees rudder to starboard. The vessel grounded outside the Craighill Channel, east of Lighted Buoy 16.
Pilot 1 immediately attempted to use astern propulsion to free the vessel. Soon after, the Master returned to the bridge and performed a series of safety checks in accordance with the vessel’s Safety Management System (SMS), prior to continuing efforts to free the vessel. After all safety checks were completed, the EVER FORWARD bridge team and Pilot 1 continued to attempt to free the vessel using astern propulsion and bow thrusters. At approximately 2031, the Master notified the vessel’s shoreside representative that the EVER FORWARD required assistance.
At approximately 2101, Pilot 1 notified U.S. Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region of the grounding. At approximately 2250 and after being relieved by another licensed Maryland State Pilot, Pilot 1 departed the grounded vessel.
During the outbound transit, Pilot 1 was solely relying on his Portable Pilot Unit (PPU) to navigate the EVER FORWARD. Just prior to the grounding, Pilot 1 exited the active navigation of his PPU to view a previous transit. Pilot 1 also made a series of five phone calls amounting to over 60 minutes of time during the course of his outbound transit. He also sent two text messages and began drafting an email immediately before the grounding occurred regarding issues he experienced with facility line handlers.
As a result of its investigation, the U.S. Coast Guard determined that the initiating event for this casualty was the grounding. No mechanical issues or equipment failures contributed to this marine casualty. The causal factors that contributed to this casualty include:
- Failure to maintain situational awareness and attention while navigating, and
- Inadequate bridge resource management.
They issued two recommendations based on the finding of the Ever Forward case. First concerns vessel owners and marine operators developing and implementing effective policies outlining the use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices.
The second recommendation applies to the vessel’s operators. The investigators found that the third officer, a Chinese national, did not directly alert the pilot when he believed they were missing the turn. The recommendation is for owners and operators to ensure and promote crew awareness of policies regarding the duties and obligations of officers on watch for the safety of the ship, even when a pilot is embarked.
Finally, it was decided to conduct a costly operation of removing containers from the ship. More than 500 containers were removed in a week thanks to rescue experts who climbed onto container piles to unhook boxes and attach them to cranes on floating pontoons. As a result, the ship was easier to move. After 35 days of running aground, with the help of six tugs and two barges, the third refloating attempt was successful.
For more details, you can download the USCG investigation report below: