The pilot aboard the Ever Forward when it ran aground in the Chesapeake Bay has agreed to give up his pilot’s license and never apply for another, according to a recent document from the Maryland Board of Pilots.
The board, which licenses and regulates pilots serving the Port of Baltimore, agreed in exchange not to fine Steven Germac.
The Ever Forward, a 1,100-foot container ship, got stuck March 13 after missing a turn in the Craighill Channel and plowing into shallow waters. It was later revealed Germac was distracted by his cellphone.
The 10 months since have seen an extensive salvage effort, a new cellphone policy for pilots, efforts to restore affected oyster bars, and now, a permanently surrendered license.
Germac has not piloted a ship since the incident, and his license was suspended in October. In a settlement agreement and consent order signed Jan. 4 by Germac and Sandy Steeves, the chair of the Board of Pilots, Germac agreed to surrender his license and never reapply for one.
The board alleged that because Germac violated the Maryland Pilots Act — which forbids piloting in a “negligent or reckless manner” — it could “reprimand” him and impose “up to a $2,000 civil monetary penalty.” But the board accepted Germac’s offer “in lieu of imposing a penalty.”
During the Ever Forward’s two-hour transit from the port in March, Germac was on the phone for an hour, sent two text messages and drafted an email, per a Coast Guard report from December. He was in an “agitated state” over issues he had experienced at the pier, the report said. The Baltimore Sun has been unable to reach Germac for comment.
The Ever Forward was stuck for more than a month as dredges, barges and tugboats sought to free it. It wasn’t until 500 containers were removed and 210,000 cubic yards were dredged that, with the help of high tide from a full moon, the ship was refloated.
Ever Forward’s owner, Evergreen Marine Corp., will pay nearly $700,000 to the state of Maryland to enhance 41 local oyster bars as a mitigation fee for damage caused by the ship sitting on the bay bottom.
An October letter to Germac and signed by Steeves, which The Sun obtained through a Public Information Act request, stated that the transit of the Ever Forward “should have been well within your capabilities as a Maryland Pilot, and you had ample time and available resources to avoid this incident.”
“Although other contributing factors may have existed,” the letter continued, “the grounding was avoidable had you followed the ordinary practice of mariners, chosen to focus on the navigational task at hand, and taken appropriate actions as expected of a prudent mariner.”
It doesn’t appear as if issues related to cellphone usage have been common among Maryland pilots. A public records request for disciplinary reports since 2012 that resulted from a pilot using his or her mobile phone did not yield results. “No responsive records exist,” the Board of Pilots wrote in a letter to The Sun.