BALTIMORE –The Coast Guard has cited “distracted driving” as the cause of the grounding of the container ship Ever Forward in the northern Chesapeake Bay. U.S. Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capitol Region completed its marine casualty investigation on Tuesday into the March 13, 2022, grounding of the container ship in the Craighill Channel.
The Report of the Investigation determined the incident’s causal factors to be the pilot’s failure to maintain situational awareness and attention while navigating, and inadequate bridge resource management.
Immediately following the grounding, Coast Guard marine investigators began the investigation to determine the factors that led to the Ever Forward grounding and develop recommendations to prevent similar marine incidents from happening in the future.
Acccording to the Coast Guard analysis, for approximately half of the two-hour transit, the Pilot on board the container ship placed and received numerous calls, texted messages, and draft emails on their personal cell phone right up until the incident. Additionally, the Pilot admittedly relied solely on their Portable Pilot Unit (PPU) for navigation and was watching playback of a previous transit at the time of the incident. The Pilot was drafting an email on their personal cell phone in the minutes leading up to the planned turn south, when the vessel sailed through its waypoint and grounded. The vessel’s bridge team attempted to cue the pilot by repeating the heading. However, by the time the bridge team became more assertive about the ship’s heading, it was too late to prevent the vessel from grounding.
Based on the finding of facts, the Coast Guard is recommending that marine operators develop and implement effective policies outlining when the use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices is appropriate or prohibited, and that vessel owners and operators 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.
The report also faulted the Ever Forward’s bridge crew for their failure to monitor the course of the ship and to alert the pilot of the impending danger.
Local pilots are employed by shipping companies to guide ships in and out of the Chesapeake Bay due to their local knowledge of the channels leading in and out of Baltimore and Hampton Roads.
The Ever Forward spent 35 days stranded and resulted in a major and multi -million dollar effort to free the vessel.