Protocol for Chesapeake Bay pilots following ship groundings

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) investigation of the container ship, Ever Forward, which ran aground in the Chesapeake Bay March 13, will determine the cause of the grounding.

That investigation is ongoing, but causes for ship groundings can include any number of factors, including mechanical issues, communication issues, weather and human error.

Regarding the latter, a pilot was aboard the Ever Forward when it ran aground.

More about what pilots do can be heard in the interview below, but they are responsible for the navigation of ships in and out of ports. In the Chesapeake Bay, a pilot is aboard the ship for the entire passage of the Bay and will give all navigational instructions.

The governing body of the Chesapeake Bay pilots is the Maryland Board of Pilots, which is part of the Maryland Department of Labor.

What is the protocol for pilots after a grounding has happened?

“As for protocol, the Maryland Board of Pilots assigns an investigator to be part of the Coast Guard’s investigation of the incident,” began Joseph E. Farren, a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Labor. “Maryland statute does not provide the Board of Pilots with the authority to suspend a pilot during an active investigation. Upon completion of the Coast Guard’s investigation, the Board of Pilots may suspend or revoke a pilot’s license if the facts of the case warrant such action.”

Currently, operations are underway to get Ever Forward moving again.

According to the USCG, they are “working closely with the Maryland Department of the Environment to develop a plan to safely refloat the 1,095 foot ship carrying 4,964 containers of general dry goods. To monitor potential pollution, EVER FORWARD’s crew is conducting soundings of all tanks, bilges, and voids every four hours, and are required to report any noticeable change in stability, draft readings, and vessel position.”

The USCG also indicated, “The Ever Forward is not currently obstructing the navigational channel, however, vessels operating in the vicinity are still required to conduct one-way traffic and transit at a reduced speed.”

For additional information about Maryland pilots, visit the Association of Maryland Pilots.

Cover photo credit to the USCG.

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Update 4/17/2022 – According to William Doyle, executive director of the Port of Baltimore, “The Evergreen Ever Forward has been refloated as of approximately 0715” Sunday morning.

Update 4/14/2022 – According to Joe Farren, spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Labor, “The Coast Guard investigation is still active and ongoing.” No decisions will be made until the investigation has concluded.

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Donna L. Cole is an award-winning multimedia and investigative reporter.

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