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"I've been waiting to say this every day for the last 11 weeks": Port of Baltimore back open

Posted at 6:18 PM, Jun 12, 2024

BALTIMORE — "I've been waiting to say this every day for the last 11 weeks..Maryland, the Fort McHenry Channel is fully clear, and the Port of Baltimore is reopened for business." That statement from Governor Wes Moore was met with cheers and applause, as he stood in the Dundalk Marine Terminal with an active port as the backdrop.

Officials from every level of government gathered to celebrate the reopening of the main channel to the Port of Baltimore, which was first announced on Monday.

On March 26, this moment felt very far away.

"We've been thinking about this moment and working toward this moment since the Governor and I had that first conversation in the literally and figuratively dark hours of the morning," U.S. Secretary of Transportation said at Wednesday's event. Buttigieg traveled to Baltimore the morning of the collapse.

"What happened that early morning of March 26 was horrific. What happened next was inspiring," the secretary said.

It took multiple state and federal agencies, and their contractors, working in tandem every day for 11 weeks to get to this point. About 50,000 tons of concrete and steel was removed form the Patapsco River.

Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath said the constant support from the community kept them going.

"It’s made a difference. When we check in at a hotel, when we go eat at a restaurant, we see you on the street somewhere or we see you on the water and you say, ‘thank you; how can I help you; what’s going on?’ That interest, that caring, that support, that love that we feel, it makes a difference in making this team go faster and stay motivated."

Before taking the podium, Secretary Buttigieg, Governor Moore, and Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller greeted members of the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) Local 333, the union that represents about 2,400 port workers.

"The Governor made a commitment to me and to the men and women of the ILA that he was gonna take care of us, that he had our backs, and Sir, your word is good, because that's what you did," Scott Cowan, president of the ILA Local 333, said. "And believe me, as soon as that bridge fell down, other ports were looking to take our cargo. If this channel wouldn't have got open in the speed it did, we would've took a very big loss of cargo to other ports, and that could've been devastating to the men and women of the ILA."

As for how much money the port lost over the last two months, Port Director Johnathan Daniels said his team is still working to calculate that, but he's confident that they'll be able to recover most, if not all, of the cargo that previously came through the Port of Baltimore.

Early on, Governor Moore set out four objectives, three of which he says are now officially complete: clearing the federal channel, taking care of impacted workers by offering financial relief, and bringing closure to the families by recovering the bodies of the victims. The fourth and final step is the one that will take the longest, and cost the most: rebuilding the Key Bridge. It's expected to cost between $1.7 and $1.9 billion, and take about four years to complete.

Governor Moore is still working to secure approval from Congress to provide 100% of the funding for the project. He, Secretary Buttigieg, and President Biden all hope to reimburse the taxpayers through insurance payments down the line, but say they don’t want to hold up the process by waiting to see how all the litigation plays out in the courts.

Last month, WMAR-2 News' Elizabeth Worthington spoke to an attorney who specializes in maritime law for more insight on how the insurance payouts might work. You can find that story here.