NewsKey Bridge Collapse


"It'll get us back to work." New channel bringing commercial activity back to Port of Baltimore

Posted at 5:27 PM, Apr 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-25 17:27:30-04

BALTIMORE — Flanked by the wreckage of the Key Bridge on one side, and the damaged Dali on the other, the first commercial ship passed through a new limited access channel this morning. It would be followed by more, including a ship almost as large as the Dali itself, carrying cars and heavy equipment.

"We're gonna see some containers coming from Norfolk on a barge, which is a big step in the right direction," Scott Cowan, president of the International Longshoremen's Association Local 333, a union that represents about 2,400 port workers, said.

He had a much lighter weight on his shoulders today, compared to when we talked to him earlier this month. This was his warning just a few days after the bridge collapse: "That channel needs to be opened within the maximum of four weeks to get these ships back in here and get the men and women of the ILA back to work."

He was pleased to learn the 35-foot limited access channel opened this morning. It's the fourth temporary alternate channel to open in the last month, but this one is deep enough for much larger ships, and is set to bring a great deal of commercial activity back to the Port of Baltimore.

"It'll bring in the vast majority of our ships with the cargo. Most ships don't need the full 50 feet, but some do, some of the larger container ships, and our export coal vessels, they need the deep water. The roll-on/roll-off, the sugar, and the various other ships, they don't need that kind of draft so they can get in," Cowan said.

The limited access channel is only going to be open for a few days, and then traffic is going to be suspended again for about 10 days to give operators enough time and space to safely remove the wreckage from the Dali and eventually get it out of the way. The limited access channel is expected to reopen on May 10.

"I'm hopeful that we'll have this thing fully going by May 10," Cowan said.

Cowan estimates about 100 workers will return for this first stretch. So, not many at first. But once the limited-access channel opens back up —

"Depending on the volume of ship traffic, I'm sure we're gonna be able to get a good bit of our folks back to work."

Officials say crews are still on track to reopen the full channel by the end of May, restoring normal activity to the port.