Baltimore shipping channel fully reopens after Key Bridge collapse

The main shipping channel into Baltimore’s port has fully reopened to its original depth and width following the 26 March collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which blocked most maritime traffic into the harbor.

Officials announced the full reopening in a news release on Monday evening. It comes after a massive cleanup effort as crews removed an estimated 50,000 tons of steel and concrete from the Patapsco River.

The channel was blocked by wreckage from the fallen bridge, which collapsed after a container ship lost power and crashed into one of its supporting columns, sending six members of a roadwork crew plunging to their deaths. All of the victims were Latino immigrants working an overnight shift to fill potholes on the bridge.

The port of Baltimore, which processes more cars and farm equipment than any other in the country, was effectively closed for several weeks while the wreckage was removed. Crews were able to reopen portions of the deep draft channel in phases, restoring some commercial traffic in recent weeks.

On 20 May, the wayward cargo ship Dali was refloated and guided back to port. The vessel had been stuck amid the wreckage for almost two months, with a massive steel truss draped across its damaged bow.

After the Dali was moved, crews opened a channel that was 15m (50ft) deep and 122m (400ft) wide. The full federal shipping channel is 213m (700ft) wide, which means two-way traffic can resume, officials said. They said other additional safety requirements have also been lifted because of the increased width.

Thousands of longshoremen, truckers and small business owners have seen their jobs affected by the collapse, prompting local and state officials to prioritize reopening the port and restoring its traffic to normal capacity in hopes of easing the economic ripple effects.

The announcement on Monday means the commerce that depends on the busy port can begin ramping back up.

The Dali lost power shortly after leaving Baltimore for Sri Lanka in the early hours of 26 March. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found it experienced power outages before starting its voyage, but the exact causes of the electrical issues have yet to be determined.

The FBI is also conducting a criminal investigation into the circumstances leading up to the collapse. Officials have said they hope to rebuild the bridge by 2028.

The Guardian

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