Engineers aim to have port open in four weeks after bridge collapse

Engineers Aim To Have Port Open In Four Weeks After Bridge Collapse
Maryland Bridge Collapse, © Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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By Lea Skene, Associated Press

Engineers working to clear the wreckage of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore said they expect to be able to restore navigation in and out of the city’s port by the end of this month.

The bridge collapsed on March 26 after being struck by the cargo ship Dali, which lost power shortly after leaving the Port of Baltimore, bound for Sri Lanka.


Authorities believe six workers on the bridges plunged to their deaths in the Patapsco River with two bodies recovered so far. Two others survived.

The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced a “tentative timeline” on Thursday, saying it expects to open a limited access channel to the port within the next four weeks measuring 85 metres wide by 11 metres deep.

Maryland Bridge Collapse
Part of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge stand (Julia Nikhinson/AP)


The channel would support one-way traffic in and out of the port for barge container service and some vessels that move automobiles and farm equipment to and from the port.

The USACE said it is aiming to reopen the permanent, 213 metre by 15 metre federal navigation channel by the end of May, which would restore port access to normal capacity.

Commanding general Lieutenant General Scott Spellmon said in a statement: “A fully opened federal channel remains our primary goal, and we will carry out this work with care and precision, with safety as our chief priority,”

He acknowledged the timelines are “ambitious” and may be impacted by adverse weather or “changes in the complexity of the wreckage”.


President Joe Biden will view the collapse site and meet with relatives of the victims on a visit to Baltimore on Friday.

Isabella Casillas Guzman, who heads the US Small Business Administration, visited Baltimore on Thursday to meet with business owners, along with state and local leaders. She said a federal program offering loans to small businesses hurt by the bridge collapse has received 500 applications.

Maryland Bridge Collapse
Cranes continue salvage work as wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge rests on the container ship Dali (Julia Nikhinson/AP)


Baltimore’s port handles more cars and farm equipment than any other similar facility in the country and the collapse has created logistical problems up and down the East Coast.

The Maryland Senate unanimously approved a bill on Wednesday night authorising the governor to use the state’s rainy day fund to help unemployed port employees. Maryland House could approve the bill this week.

The Norwegian shipping firm Wallenius Wilhelmsen, which has a hub in Baltimore, said it estimates its own losses at between $5 million (£3.95 million) and $10 million (£7.9 million) from the port closure.

US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath said seven commercial vessels are stuck in the port with their crews on board until a temporary channel is opened that is deep enough for them to get out.


Crews are working to clear the steel wreckage and recover the remaining bodies, something made more difficult by recent bad weather. They have opened two temporary channels meant primarily for vessels involved in the clean-up.

The water is so murky, salvage divers cannot see more than one to two feet in front of them, Governor Wes Moore said on Thursday.

Each diver is now paired with an operator who uses three-dimensional drawings and other tools to guide them in a “buddy system”, he said.

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