NewsKey Bridge Collapse


More commercial activity to be restored to Port of Baltimore this week

Posted at 5:35 PM, Apr 23, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-23 18:21:14-04

DUNDALK, Md. — Governor Wes Moore and members of the Unified Command announced today the "limited access channel" that was promised by the end of April will in fact open later this week, weather permitting.

“This is an important milestone. But I also want to be clear - this is not the goal. This is a step on the journey but it’s not the destination," Gov. Moore said at a press conference.

The timeline set out by the Army Corps of Engineers has the main federal channel reopening at the end of May. Officials say the salvage teams are on track to meet that goal.

The new channel will be 35 feet deep. It's the fourth alternate channel that's been established over the past month to provide relief to the Port of Baltimore as it remains mostly shut down. But this latest one will allow for larger ships, and more commercial activity to return to the port.

“The reason why this was an important milestone is that - around that 35 foot draft is really where you’re starting to get some of the inventory that’s coming on board that have been some of the hallmarks of the Port of Baltimore," Gov. Moore explained. "That’s where you’re starting to get enough draft where you’re able to get things like the aluminum and the container ships that are coming on board. That’s why this one is gonna be such an important feature."

Commercial vessels will pass through the channel while salvage operations continue, adding complexity to the project.

"Members of Unified Command are literally pulling steel from the water with active vessels moving around them," Gov. Moore said. "And these boats are in such close quarters to our salvage team that they can literally feel the vibrations when these ships move by. As the water shifts, so does the wreckage. We have to understand - the enormity and the size of these ships, they will and do create an impact. So as we’re having people who are working on the salvage, that’s all now being done with a very new consideration - commercial vehicles that are moving alongside of them. This work is complicated. This work is dangerous. We need to make sure our commercial movements do not slow our work as we’re still clearing the wreckage."

So far, about 2,900 tons of steel have been removed. The Army Corps of Engineers estimates there's about 50,000 tons of wreckage in all.

The removal of a 560 ton piece on Monday helped clear the way for the opening of the new limited access channel. Between the rigging and lifting, it took crews part of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to remove the piece from the water and bring it to Sparrows Point for recycling.

"And the reason why the rigging and lifting took so long is because of how deeply entrenched this wreckage was - not only in the mud but also tangled up in collapsed wreckage below," Colonel Estee Pinchasin, with the Army Corps of Engineers, said.

“This is happening at night," Gov. Moore said. "This operation happened when many people were already fast asleep. Colonel Pinchasin, I think you sent me this - I think it was 11:30 at night when we were speaking about this pull. This is a 24/7 operation that is taking place.”

Once the new channel is open, several ships that have been stuck on either side of the port will pass through. Then, the Coast Guard will suspend vessel traffic for about 10 days.

“As part of removing the Dali, and continuing to work as fast as possible, and safely, we’re going to suspend vessel transits through that new channel for roughly 10 days or so. That will allow us to safely conduct the rigging we need to do on that large piece of bridge that’s still on board the bow of the Dali," U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath said.