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30 March 2024

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The most severe US bridge allision since the Tampa Skyway Bridge disaster in 1980 happened around 0128 hrs of Tuesday 26th March, 2024 in the while the ship was under pilotage.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed after being rammed by the Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) built 299.9m long (loa) container ship DALI
causing vehicles to plunge into the water and threatening chaos at one of the most important ports on the US East Coast. The Maryland Transportation Authority issued an alert on X telling drivers not to use Interstate 695.

 

Kevin Cartwright of the Baltimore City Fire Department (BCFD) described it as “a mass casualty, multi-agency incident” , adding as many as 20 people could be in the water. In fact 2 people were rescued from the river; one had no injuries, while the other was transported to a hospital in critical condition. Six members of a construction crew working on the roadway were reported missing; two bodies were recovered, and the other four are presumed dead.

Much of the Port of Baltimore remains closed to shipping as a result of the collapse. Maryland governor Wes Moore called the event a “global crisis” and stated that over 8,000 jobs were impacted. Experts estimate that the closure of the waterway is causing losses of $15 million per day causing huge disruption — both for shipping at one of the busiest ports on the US East Coast and on the roads — now that a key link has been severed on the major highway encircling Baltimore.

The 9,962 TEU mother ship DALI homeported at Singapore (SGP Flag ) is managed by Synergy Marine and she had around 4,900 containers on
board at the time . All crewmembers, including the two pilots, were uninjured in the incident while the ship’s bow is badly damaged.

Many containers have been badly damaged at her bow with cargo insurers WK Webster  stating –  “There is likely to be significant cargo loss and damage as a result of this very serious incident, including to a number of containers which are reported to be hanging from the bridge. It also seems almost certain that the vessel will not be proceeding with the voyage in the near future resulting in serious delays to all cargo on board.”

“At this stage it’s not possible to know what the reopening timeline may look like,” stated a report from broker Arrow. “Given the importance to automobile imports, the container trade, cruise ships and coal exports, we suspect there will be a concerted effort to reopen the port as quickly as possible. The impact on the local economy will begin immediately, consequently, resuming operations will likely become a priority.”

Company executives were traveling to the site to assess the situation. The bridge allows commercial ships to enter the Port of Baltimore, one of the top ports in the US in terms of volume and value of cargoes. It is the largest US port for handling cars and light trucks. At least 21ships are in waters to the west of the collapsed bridge. About half of them are tugs. There also at least three bulk carriers – PHATRA NAREE (THA Flag),JY RIVER (LBR Flag) and KLARA OLDENDORFF (PRT Flag), vehicles carrier CARMEN (SWE Flag) and a small tanker.

An extended shutdown is going to bring chaos for travelers just ahead of the Easter holiday weekend on the already clogged corridor between
New York and Washington, DC.

The Baltimore port handled 847,158 autos and light trucks in 2023, the most of any US port for the thirteenth straight year, according to a state of Maryland website. The port also handled large volumes of imported sugar, gypsum and coffee, as well as exported coal.

The 22 Indian crew members aboard the container ship DALI have been praised for saving countless lives by raising a mayday alarm just moments before the vessel rammed into one of the pillars causing a long span of the bridge to instantly crumple into the Patapsco River.

She was outbound from Baltimore with destination Colombo at Sri Lanka when the accident happened.

On Friday 29th March, the American built 57m long crane barge CHESAPEAKE 1000 owned by Donjon Marine assisted by the 1982 built tug KATAN, which is the largest crane on the eastern US seaboard and can lift 1,000 tons, was being erected at the site .

Some of those containers stored sheen, which is used in paint. A few have already broken open, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has said. Authorities have deployed floating booms in an effort to corral any leaks. Experts estimate it could take a month for the Port of Baltimore to reopen and years to rebuild the bridge. The incident investigation may take two years.

The city’s Major League Baseball team, the Baltimore Orioles, marked the start of their season on Thursday with a moment of silence for the victims, who were from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. The wife of one of the construction workers who was pulled from the water said it is a miracle that he is alive as he does not know how to swim.

President Joe Biden’s administration approved  $60 million in immediate aid. Biden has said the federal government will pay the full cost of rebuilding the bridge.

Ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore remains suspended, but the Maryland Port Administration said in a statement Friday that trucks were still being processed at marine terminals.

“There is a lot of speculation as to when the channel will be reopened,” the agency said. “The fact of the matter is we do not know.”

Federal and state officials have said the collision and collapse early Tuesday appeared to be an accident that came after the ship lost power. Investigators are still trying to determine why.

All images courtesy of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

TO BE CONTINUED….

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