June 13, 2024
First vessel uses alternate channel to avoid Baltimore bridge wreckage
BALTIMORE - A tugboat pushing a fuel barge became the first vessel to use a temporary channel to avoid the wreckage of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, which has closed the main shipping port in the Patapsco River.

The barge supplies jet fuel to the Department of Defense and was being brought to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday.

The channel was established earlier Monday on the northeast side of the main channel. It is marked with lighted aids for navigation and has a controlling depth of 11 feet, horizontal clearance of 264 feet and a vertical clearance of 96 feet. Officials said it will mainly be used by vessels assisting the salvage efforts.

It comes nearly a week after a 984-foot cargo ship, named the Dali, was on its way to Sri Lanka last Tuesday when it lost power and struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing a large span to collapse into the water, along with at least eight construction workers.

Two workers were rescued and survived, and divers found two bodies in a submerged truck. The four other workers, who have not been found, are presumed dead.

The channel is the first part of an extensive process to open the main channel to the Port of Baltimore, the ninth-busiest port in the nation for international cargo. Last year, the port dealt with a record 1.7 million tons of general cargo, state officials said earlier this year.

There is currently a 2,000-yard safety zone around the bridge that no vessel or person is allowed to enter without permission from the captain of the port or a “designated representative,” according to the Coast Guard.

Crane barges are currently being used to lift and transfer the wreckage to Tradepoint Atlantic in Sparrows Point, Md.

The Coast Guard said the Unified Command is working on establishing a second alternate channel on the southwest side of the main channel that will permit deeper draft vessels.

Coast Guard Capt. David O’Connell, the federal on-scene coordinator for the joint command response, told CBS News a third channel with up to 25 feet of depth is also being discussed, but the debris around the ship needs to be removed first.

State and federal officials warned Port of Baltimore’s closure will impact Maryland’s local economy, but also have ripple effects nationwide. The port provides more than 15,000 direct jobs and over 139,000 indirect jobs, equal to about $3.3 billion in personal income, Axios reported last week.

No definitive timeline has been released on when the port could reopen. (Source: The Hill)
Story Date: April 3, 2024
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