Container Ship Crashes into Baltimore Bridge, Six Dead

Governor demands probe into incident.

Source : Maryland GovPics Flickr

April 6, 2024

Author : Patty Allen

The Francis Scott Key bridge has been functioning since 1977 and spans across the lower Patapsco River and outer Baltimore Harbor / Port. It is pivotal in connecting Maryland and the nation's economic sustenance.

In the early hours of March 26th, a 1000-foot-long container ship, the Dali, traveling from Baltimore to Sri Lanka, issued a "Mayday" alert and then crashed into the bridge, leading to its collapse. 

Due to the warning, authorities could remove most of the traffic from the 1.6-mile bridge, which serves as a key transit route in Maryland, but eight construction workers were repairing potholes. Six people have lost their lives in the incident.

Until Sunday, the 31st of March, ship traffic has completely stopped at one of the busiest American ports. The ship had remained trapped under the truss of the bridge, and as per the latest report, two cranes were "actively working on the scene" while another land-based crane was helping to offload the wreckage. 

The Unified Command of Coast Guard and Maryland officials stated that three dive teams were surveying the damages in the submerged sections of the bridge.

The Unified Command is also working with Baltimore Gas and Electric to reduce pressure on the underwater natural gas pipeline, which runs beneath the incident site.

Officials at the bridge collapse said they are conducting engineering analyses and surveys to determine how to deal with the 3,000 to 4,000 tons of shredded debris 50 feet deep in the canal.

According to officials, one of the most challenging aspects of the operation will be removing the thousands of tons of steel and concrete that sit atop the vessel's bow.

The wreckage will be lifted in pieces at a time. According to the US Army Corps of Engineers Commander and District Engineer Estee Pinchasin, after each lift, responders will scan and evaluate the area before diving into the water.

Four bridge workers' bodies are yet to be recovered; bad weather conditions and the wreckage are hindering the rescue operation. 

Tom Perez, senior advisor and assistant to President Biden, explained, "The Port of Baltimore will be back. The president has said this. We're going to move heaven and earth to make sure we rebuild the bridge; we clear out the debris as soon as possible so that we can minimize these disruptions."

In a bid to normalize operations, authorities are working to open an alternate channel for commercial vehicles. This would be on the northeast side of the main channel. The Unified Command stated that the temporary channel is part of a "phased approach" to opening the main channel. It will be marked with navigation aids and will be 11 feet deep, with a horizontal clearance of 264 feet and a vertical clearance of 96 feet.

The 2,000-yard safety zone around the Francis Scott Key Bridge site is still in place to safeguard persons, vessels, and the maritime environment.

The economic consequences of the bridge collapse might be far-reaching, as it has blocked the flow of ships into and out of the Port of Baltimore and dealt a devastating blow to the thousands of dock workers who rely on the busy port.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg explained that until the underwater survey is completed, nothing concrete can be said about when the bridge can be rebuilt and reopened and how it will impact supply chain issues. 

Governor Moore has demanded a probe into the incident and explained. "I want that investigation to be speedy. And for anyone who needs to be held accountable to be held accountable." He further stated, "Not because anyone is trying to do Maryland a favor. It's because the national economy relies on the port of Baltimore being up and running."

The federal administration has sanctioned $60 million in emergency funds to assist in the clean-up.

The 22-member Indian-origin crew remains onboard the Dali to help with any emergency.

Category : State Government Ports

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