Delegates to the MTD Convention in Philadelphia received a special presentation instead of a speech from the executive director of the Maryland Port Administration.
William Doyle choose to explain how he worked with U.S.-flag maritime companies and governmental agencies to extricate a foreign-flag containership that ran aground in the Chesapeake Bay in March.
Doyle, who began his maritime career as a member of the MTD-affiliated Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA), told the delegates he wanted to show that Jones Act companies could handle the job when he received word on the evening of March 13 that the Ever Forward was stuck in the bay after departing Baltimore.
Speaking on June 10, Doyle decided he wanted his agency to control the message surrounding the grounding and “we’ve got to go all in on a Jones Act operations.” Messaging would include the fact no one was killed or injured, no environmental damage occurred, no oil spilled into the bay and commerce still could move freely.
In less than one day, foreign dredging interests were telling the media that “the U.S. can’t do it” and their vessels and crews would be needed. But the Maryland Port Administration stayed on message, “U.S. dredgers, U.S. workers, U.S. companies – we’ve got this.”
Two Jones Act dredging companies quickly provided equipment, including one already in the Chesapeake Bay on an Army Corps of Engineers job. Dredging began one week after the incident, with the materials being recycled to rebuild an island in the bay.
Doyle and his team realized the Ever Forward had to be lightened in order to refloat. Crews removed 500 containers by April 17 when conditions including a high tide would be excellent to free the vessel. After all the dredging and container removals and with six tugboats working, the ship floated free 15 minutes before high tide.
Doyle credited his lifetime of experience in knowing the U.S.-flag maritime industry could handle the emergency. He thanked the maritime unions, shipping companies, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers and numerous state and local agencies for allowing him to have “the confidence in the U.S. merchant marine to get that done. It worked out.”
Before being appointed to oversee the Maryland Port Administration in 2020, Doyle was a Federal Maritime Commissioner from 2013 to 2018, then CEO and Executive Director of the Dredging Contractors of America. He announced he still is a dues-paying MEBA member.