Another Evergreen Megaship Aground
In case you haven’t heard, Evergreen has had another costly and public debacle. No, this isn’t a story about Hilary Clinton; Evergreen being her code name from the secret service is just coincidental. Evergreen is the same massive ocean freight carrier whose ship, the Ever Given, ran aground sideways in the Suez Canal last year. Now the shipping line has a megaship, ironically named Ever Forward, stuck in the Chesapeake Bay, where it ran aground after leaving the Port of Baltimore.
We’ll give TickTocker (I don’t know if that’s what they call people on TickTock, but they should) Luke McFadden a chance to shine, as he posted a video that has great footage of the stuck ship. McFadden is a little off on his information at the top of the video. The now-stuck Ever Forward, at 11,850 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) capacity according to an American Shipper article by Kim Link-Wills, is actually smaller than the Ever Given, which is one of the world’s most massive ships in the world at 20,124 TEU capacity according to an Economics Times article.
But don’t let that capacity size difference fool you – the Ever Forward is still a massive ship, as can be seen in McFadden’s cool video where he shows and talks about the aground ship:[ In case you have trouble seeing the embedded video, here’s the link: https://www.tiktok.com/@fvsoutherngirl/video/7077353529970806062?is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1&q=evergreen%20baltimore&t=1647939491734 ]
How Long Will Ever Forward Be Stuck?
It’s not likely the Ever Forward will be stuck in the Chesapeake Bay all summer as McFadden speculates as a possibility. It took around a week to get the Ever Given unstuck from the Suez Canal. While it likely will be quite laborious to free the Ever Forward, I would expect it could be done in a similar time frame to how long it took to free the Ever Given. However, there are a couple holdups.
The biggest holdup will likely be getting whatever permission and permits will be required to dig the ship out from where it’s gone aground. Second is a lower sense of urgency. The Ever Forward is not blocking one of the world’s most important shipping lanes, like the Ever Given was. Blocking the Suez canal has enormous consequences. In fact, in an American Shipper article on the Ever Given last year, Link-Wills reported:
The International Chamber of Shipping said the blockage of the canal cost $5.1 billion in world trade per day.
There simply isn’t that kind of motivation to get the Ever Forward afloat again. Of course, shippers whose goods are stuck on the ship might not feel the same way. And Evergreen surely would like to get their ship unstuck as quickly as possibly.
I would also note that shippers shouldn’t have to worry about their shipping containers of goods being taken out of the ship and then needing to be reloaded once the ship is back afloat, as people McFadden spoke to apparently speculated.
Getting the kind of cranes required to remove those containers to the aground ship would be an incredible feat in and of itself. That alone, alone then moving the containers presumably onto another vessel to clear them, could easily be as or more difficult than actually digging and tugging the ship out.
Plan to Free Ever Forward
Link-Wills’s article on the Ever Forward outlines the plan for freeing the massive container ship:
“In terms of planning for rescue operations, dredgers will be used to excavate around the stranded vessel to remove part of the mud, increase the buoyancy of the hull and increase the space (clearance) between the rudder and the seabed to ensure the safety of the ship,” the Evergreen spokesman said.
“The rescue team is mobilizing all available local tugboats to join in the refloating operation,” he continued. “After sufficient mud is excavated, the amount of ballast water on Ever Forward will be adjusted to reduce the ship’s weight and the refloating operation will begin using both the tugboats and the power of her main engine. The rescue team will carry out the plan utilizing the most beneficial high-tide period in the port area.”
While this story doesn’t carry the same interruptive weight to the international shipping industry as the Ever Given getting stuck or many of the other stories we cover in this blog do, it does give things for shippers and the industry to think about.
First, this adds fuel to the fire of the long-pondered question who do these megaships really benefit? About a decade ago in this blog I was bringing up arguments made by those questioning the wisdom of the industry’s trend to larger and larger ships. Many ports and waterways can’t support ships of the sizes commonly used now. Ever Given and Ever Forward are both evidence of added risk with larger ships.
Risk for shippers also increases as more of their goods are packed on to single ships, rather than being diversified across multiple ships. Carrier alliances add to this problem too. Certainly, this risk is one more thing that reminds shippers of the importance of cargo insurance. But it also likely puts upward pressure on those rates too.
There are other obvious questions. Universal Cargo’s CEO, Devin Burke, brought up the broad picture issue when we were discussing this that carriers overload their ships. He also texted me, “Why always Evergreen?” Is that company particularly bad about overloading their ships, making them heavier and more likely to run aground? Is there another issue from this company increasing the risk for the carrier?
It could be coincidental that these two biggest, most publicized recent stories about ships going aground are both Evergreen ships. There was a big Norwegian cruise ship that ran aground around a week ago, so this is something that sometimes happens, and not just to Evergreen. However, Evergreen may need to do a bit of self assessment to make sure the company is doing everything possible to avoid these situations in the future. Two of its megaships running aground in about a year’s time raises eyebrows. A third would be disastrous.