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Temporary channel to open for small vessels initially at Port of Baltimore


In one of the latest developments since a container vessel struck the Francis Scott Bridge early last Tuesday morning, the US Corps of Engineers has begun working to remove the wreckage with a view to opening a temporary channel on the northeastern side of the main access channel to the Port of Baltimore.

“This will mark an important first step along the road to reopening the port of Baltimore,” said Capt. David O’Connell, Federal On-Scene Coordinator, Key Bridge Response 2024. “By opening this alternate route, we will support the flow of marine traffic into Baltimore.”

However, the temporary channel will only have a 3.4m draught, an 80m horizontal clearance and a 30m height clearance. Thus, many dozens of large vessels remain unable to enter or exit the port.

According to the Captain of the Port (COPT), “This action is part of a phased approach to opening the main channel. The temporary channel will be marked with government-lighted aids to navigation.”

The current 2,000-yard safety zone around the Francis Scott Key Bridge remains in effect and is intended to protect personnel, vessels, and the marine environment. No vessel or person will be permitted to enter the safety zone without obtaining permission from the COTP or a designated representative.

The COTP will issue a Broadcast Notice to Mariners (BNM) via VHF-FM marine channel 16. Mariners are requested to monitor the VHF channel 16 for the latest information.

Meanwhile, Maryland’s governor, Wes Moore, called on Republicans to collaborate with their Democrat colleagues to approve the federal funding needed to rebuild the bridge and to return the port to its pre-accident operational levels.

The legislative monitoring website, Roll Call, reported recently that the total cost of rebuilding the bridge could attain US$2 billion, as an early approximate estimate. But Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has said only US$950 million is available in the country’s emergency fund, and this will compete with other projects.

The bridge collapsed after the 10,000 TEU Dali chartered by Maersk had an apparent totalpower failure resulting in the vessel colliding with a bridge support. The accident has so far seen six confirmed casualties.

(US Coast Guard photo)