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Ever Forward Could Remain Stuck In Bay For Over A Week As Officials Plan Delicate Operation To Refloat It

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- It has been nearly a week since a massive cargo ship with thousands of containers on board got stuck in the Chesapeake Bay.

Friday morning, WJZ's Ava-Joye Burnett traveled out onto the bay with U.S. Coast Guard engineers and investigators as they try to bring the vessel afloat.

Officials said it could be another 10 days before the ship is able to float again because it is a rare, complex mission.

Captain David O'Connell is the section Sector Commander of the Maryland-National Capital Region. He leads Coast Guard operations in the coordination of all maritime safety, security and environmental missions in the region.

"It's rare for a vessel to run aground in the Chesapeake Bay," Cpt. O'Connell said ahead of the excursion. "I've been here a year and it's the first major incident we've had in the port. You'll see when we go out there that it is an impressive sight to see and because of its size, it's a very complex operation."

The Ever Forward is a massive cargo ship that ran aground 24 feet deep into mud Sunday night.

"Right now it's 24 feet, so basically as it traveled outside the channel, it almost buried itself into the bank," O'Connell said. "That's why it's not an easy operation of just putting some tugs on it and pulling it free."

The ship has impressed even seasoned professionals.

"You think of something that's 1100 feet long and around 160 feet wide... it's just massive," said Geoffrey Donahue, Director for the Office of Emergency Preparedness and response for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

The vessel resembles a skyscraper on its side. It's more than 100 stories long and more than 4900 containers are on board.

A team of engineers, investigators and even divers are working on a plan to move her. The department of the environment is there too, because with 2200 tons of fuel onboard - they want to make sure nothing is leaking.

"Rushing creates the potential to cause additional problems that currently we do not have," Donahue said. "The pollution threat compromising the stability of the vessel if we were to pull on it and put it in an unstable position, we can cause containers to fall off, we could cause fuel release, that type of thing. Or further damage to the shipping channel which currently is not affected."

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

In the bay, other ships are able to pass, but efforts to get the Ever Forward moving forward again could take more than a week.

According to an Associated Press report, the plan to refloat the ship includes lightening the ballast, dredging the mud around the ship and refloating the ship at high tide using tug boats and the ship's engine. The plan needs to be approved by authorities first.

"From the time dredging operation starts we're estimating about 10 days for that to happen," Cpt. O'Connell said. "We're still waiting for the bigger plan to come in to look at that. We're expecting that sometime later today."

As of now, no leaks have been detected, but the crew will have to monitor certain elements every four hours to make sure that doesn't change.

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