Home » Why did the Baltimore bridge collapse and what do we know about the ship?

Why did the Baltimore bridge collapse and what do we know about the ship?

Six workers were missing and presumed dead from a bridge that collapsed in Baltimore Harbor on Tuesday when a massive container ship crippled by a power loss rammed into the structure, forcing closure of one of the busiest ports on the US Eastern Seaboard.
US Coast Guard and Maryland State Police officials said that based on the frigid temperature of the water and the length of time that had elapsed since the bridge came down there was little if any chance that the six missing could be found alive.

"At this point we do not believe that we're going to find any of these individuals still alive," said Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath.

Baltimore bridge collapse

Source: SBS News

The ship reported a power issue before impact, which enabled officials to stop traffic on the bridge before the collapse.
"By being able to stop cars from coming over the bridge, these people are heroes. They saved lives last night," Maryland governor Wes Moore said at a briefing.
Moore described the bridge as an "unthinkable tragedy ... like something out of an action movie".

"We have to be thinking about the families and people impacted," he said.

What happened in Baltimore?

A container ship named the Dali was sailing down the Patapsco River when it struck a pylon of the bridge, crumpling almost the entire structure into the water.

The vessel's crew notified authorities of a power issue before the crash, Moore said. He said the bridge was up to code and there were no known structural issues. There was no indication of terrorism, police said.

Why did the bridge collapse?

The metal truss-style bridge has a suspended deck, a design that contributed to its total collapse, engineers say. The ship appeared to hit a main concrete pier, which rests on soil underwater and is part of the foundation.

Are there any casualties?

A construction crew was fixing potholes on the bridge and eight people fell 56 meters into the river where water temperatures were 8C.
According to research for the Federal Aviation Administration, that is the upper limit of what a human could survive falling into water. Two people were rescued, one unharmed and one critically injured. Officials announced on Wednesday that the search for six people still missing had been suspended.
Authorities saved lives by stopping vehicles from using the bridge after receiving a mayday call, the Maryland governor said.

The ship also dropped its anchors to try to avoid the collision.

A ship hitting a bridge

A screenshot from a livestream of the Port of Baltimore appears to show the moment of impact between a container ship and the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. Source: YouTube / StreamTime Live

What do we know about the ship?

The Dali was leaving Baltimore en route to Colombo, Sri Lanka.
All 22 crew, including two pilots on board, have been accounted for and there were no injuries, the ship's manager, Synergy Marine Group said.
The registered owner of the Singapore-flagged ship is Grace Ocean Pte Ltd, data shows. The ship is 289 metres long and was stacked high with containers.

It can hold up to 10,000 twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEU, a measure of cargo capacity. It was carrying 4,679 TEU.

A collapsed bridge

A section of the collapsed bridge. Source: AAP / Harford County, MD Volunteer Fire & EMS/PA/Alamy

What do we know about the bridge that collapsed?

The Francis Scott Key Bridge was one of three ways to cross the Baltimore Harbor and handled 31,000 cars per day or 11.3 million vehicles a year.
The steel structure is four lanes wide and sits 56 metres above the river.

It opened in 1977 and crosses the Patapsco River, where US national anthem author Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner in 1814, after witnessing the British defeat at the Battle of Baltimore and the British bombing of Fort McHenry.

How will the bridge collapse affect Baltimore Port?

Traffic was suspended at the port after the collision. It is one of the smallest container ports on the Northeastern seaboard, handling about a tenth of the volume that passes through the Port of New York and New Jersey.
The flow of containers to Baltimore can likely be redistributed to bigger ports, said container shipping expert Lars Jensen. However, there could be major disruptions in shipping cars, coal and sugar.

It is the busiest US port for car shipments, handling at least 750,000 vehicles in 2023, according to data from the Maryland Port Administration.

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