Port of Baltimore Faces Delays in Reopening After Bridge Collapse

Jun 2, 2024 | Uncategorized

Port of Baltimore Faces Delays in Reopening After Bridge Collapse. 

The clean-up and restoration efforts following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge will take longer than initially expected. The Unified Command team overseeing the project has announced that the shipping channel to the Port of Baltimore will not be fully reopened to its original 700-foot width and 50-foot depth until June 8-10. This new timeline extends the original goal of having everything cleared by the end of May.

On March 26, the Dali container vessel collided with the Key Bridge, causing the bridge to collapse and resulting in the tragic deaths of six construction workers. The immediate aftermath saw the closure of the port as the wreckage obstructed the passage of container ships and other vessels. In response, Unified Command managed to open four temporary channels to maintain maritime traffic.

Despite these efforts, the current 400-foot-wide channel remains narrower than its pre-collapse state, as a significant portion of the bridge truss is still embedded in the riverbed. To restore the channel fully, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) must excavate and segment the truss into manageable parts for removal.

“We are not taking our foot off the gas,” stated Col. Estee Pinchasin, Commander of the USACE Baltimore District. “We are pushing forward as quickly and safely as possible to reach 700 feet and ensuring we remove all wreckage to prevent any impact to future navigation.”

The complexity of the cutting and rigging process, coupled with safety precautions and potential weather disruptions, has necessitated the revised timeline. So far, 500 commercial vessels have navigated through the temporary channels since the collapse, according to Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath. Full commercial vessel traffic through the Fort McHenry Limited Access Channel resumed on Tuesday, prioritizing deep-draft vessels that require pilot and tugboat escorts.

The reopening of the port is crucial for local commerce and the broader U.S. economy, as the Port of Baltimore is the 15th-largest container gateway in the country by 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) processed. The resumption of port activities will also alleviate the need for alternate land transportation methods for goods destined for the Baltimore area.

The refloated Dali vessel, currently stationed at the port, is expected to undergo repairs for the next four to six weeks before being transferred to the Port of Virginia for further work and cargo unloading.

Meanwhile, a safety zone remains in effect within a 2,000-yard radius of the collapsed bridge to ensure the protection of personnel, vessels, and the marine environment. Maryland officials plan to replace the Francis Scott Key Bridge with a new span by fall 2028, with an estimated project cost between $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion.

 

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