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Port of Baltimore suspends in and out vessel traffic till further notice

Vessel traffic in and out of the Port of Baltimore in Maryland USA has been suspended until further notice as per the Port of Baltimore. The Port however is NOT CLOSED, and terminal operations are carrying on as normal with trucks and containers being processed.

This announcement follows the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge after Dali, a container ship, struck a support column on the 47-year-old bridge on the 26th March 2024, causing it to collapse. The 2.6 km bridge has been destroyed.

The Dali, a 9,971 TEU capacity container ship registered in Singapore arrived at Baltimore on the 23rd of March after crossing the Panama Canal and was on its way to Sri Lanka as per Marine Traffic.

While the Baltimore Fire Department confirmed that two people were rescued, it is understood that 6 people are missing and presumed dead and the US Coast Guard has suspended its search and has begun recovery efforts.

Initial news suggests that the ship suffered a “power issue” and issued a distress call moments before the crash.

Environmental aspects of the Baltimore Bridge collapse

Following this disaster, the US Coast Guard is currently checking for any hazardous goods among the shipping containers that were damaged on board the ship and also the cargo manifest for any materials that could pose a potential health risk.

CNN is reporting that 13 damaged containers some of which are with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] and/or hazardous goods are being examined by an elite Coast Guard team.

As per a CISA memo, federal officials are monitoring approximately 1.8 million gallons of potential marine diesel spillage from the ship.

Various federal agencies are working with the local authorities to assist in the search and rescue efforts in response to this incident and the FBI has announced that there is no specific and credible information to suggest any ties to terrorism at this time.

What caused the Francis Scott Key bridge to collapse..??

, Associate Professor, Civil Engineering, Monash University has written a very interesting piece where he explains that the Francis Scott Key bridge rests on four supports including two “dolphin” structures made from concrete and a fender sitting on either side of the navigable waterway, critical to protect against ship impacts.

As per Colinn, while these dolphin structures are designed to be sacrificed to keep any ship from hitting the bridge itself, when the Dali weighing 116,851 tonnes made it past the protective dolphins, the size of the ship was simply far too massive for the fender to withstand, causing the bridge collapse.

Conclusion

The Port of Baltimore is one of the vital ports for automotive and coal industries contributing to the equivalent of 1/4th of all the new cars in the United States as reported by the New York Times.

This incident has been classified by the US Coast Guard as a major marine casualty and NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) of the USA will be leading the investigation to establish the probable cause.

 

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