Thursday, 25 April 2024

First Vessel Transits New Temporary Route Into Baltimore Harbour


First Vessel Transits New Temporary Route Into Baltimore Harbour
A crane, the first of several needed, is positioned by the wreckage of the Francis Scott KGetty Images

A temporary channel has been marked with buoys to allow a small amount of priority traffic to go in and out of Baltimore, the first step in a “phased” effort to reopen the port, Maryland’s governor said.

The deep shipping channel, dredged and maintained at a depth of 45 feet to allow the largest ships — including the Evergreen A-class container carriers which have a carrying capacity over double that of the MV Dali, which brought down the bridge last week — will remain blocked for weeks yet, but a small secondary channel has been opened. The temporary undredged route goes underneath the first standing span of the destroyed bridge over the Patapsco, giving it limited clearance and is only 11 feet deep.

A fuel barge is pushed by Tugboat Crystal Coast, the first vessel to transit a new temporary alternate channel near the Dali container vessel after it struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge that collapsed into the Patapsco River in Baltimore, Maryland, US, on Monday, April 1, 2024. Ports along the US East Coast are modifying their operations to absorb cargo diverted from Baltimore harbor, where salvage specialists are starting the daunting task of clearing debris from the destroyed Francis Scott Key Bridge. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Buoys mark out the new channel for safety, but the narrow, shallow space means the amount of traffic able to use it will be very limited, and likely confined mainly to the barges and tugs being used to clear the main part of the bridge to get the port open again. It is certainly not large enough for any container ship to pass.

Speaking on Monday Maryland governor Wes Moore said a second temporary channel was planned to the south of the disaster site which would have a slightly deeper draft at 15 feet to open “in the coming days”. Regardless, the area is crowded with obstructions and limited by air draft and is still far removed from a full re-opening. This is all part of the “phased” reopening of the Port, he said.

Moore told the public:

A temporary channel on the north east side of the collapse opened earlier today and it will help us to get more vessels in the water around the site of the collapse. The temporary channel will be marked with government lights to aid navigation, and will have a controlling depth of 11 feet. Now, we are also moving forward on creating a south-west channel for deeper draft vessels that will allow for a deeper draw. That channel will measure about 15 feet deep and will be open in the coming days.

Coast Guard Rear Admiral Gilreath also spoke of this progress, saying while he was proud of the new temporary route under the bridge’s remaining part to the north, getting the deep water channel in the centre remains his first priority. He said: “what we are finding, is it is more complicated than we hoped for initially… conditions on the diving, it is very complicated down below… more challenged than we hoped it might be.” RAdm. Gilreath said more cranes were being brought up to clear the water and the first lift of steel debris had taken place, and another was to follow Monday afternoon.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – APRIL 01: Wreckage from the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge rests on the cargo ship Dali efforts begin to clear the debris and reopen the Port of Baltimore on April 01, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland. Two survivors were pulled from the Patapsco River and six missing people are presumed dead after the Coast Guard called off rescue efforts. A work crew was fixing potholes on the bridge, which is used by roughly 30,000 people each day, when the ship struck. The accident has temporarily closed the Port of Baltimore, one of the largest and busiest on the East Coast of the U.S. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – APRIL 01: Wreckage from the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge rests on the cargo ship Dali efforts begin to clear the debris and reopen the Port of Baltimore on April 01, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland. Two survivors were pulled from the Patapsco River and six missing people are presumed dead after the Coast Guard called off rescue efforts. A work crew was fixing potholes on the bridge, which is used by roughly 30,000 people each day, when the ship struck. The accident has temporarily closed the Port of Baltimore, one of the largest and busiest on the East Coast of the U.S. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

These operations are considerable, difficult, and involve huge volumes of material, it was stated, with Governor Moore elaborating: “The entire operation took ten hours and in that time they were able to cut and lift a 200 ton span of the bridge… this was a relatively small lift. We’re talking about 200 tons, we’re talking about something which is almost the size of the Statue of Liberty… the scale of this project, to be clear, is enormous and even the small lifts are huge.”

Limiting factors included the “chaotic wreckage”, murky waters, and dangers to divers.

The first craft through the new channel transited late on Monday, a fuel barge pushed by tug boat the Crystal Coast, which draws less than nine feet of water. The exclusion zone remains in place around the remains of the Baltimore Bridge and the MV Dali container ship that struck it, meaning no watercraft can operate in the area without permission of the harbour master, including transiting the temporary channels. As previously expressed, these will likely be restricted to urgent and construction traffic.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – APRIL 01: Wreckage from the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge rests on the cargo ship Dali efforts begin to clear the debris and reopen the Port of Baltimore on April 01, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland. Two survivors were pulled from the Patapsco River and six missing people are presumed dead after the Coast Guard called off rescue efforts. A work crew was fixing potholes on the bridge, which is used by roughly 30,000 people each day, when the ship struck. The accident has temporarily closed the Port of Baltimore, one of the largest and busiest on the East Coast of the U.S. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

 


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