A container ship’s loss of propulsion while headed toward New York’s Verrazzano Narrows bridge April 5 – little more than a week after the catastrophic bridge allision in Baltimore – underlined new concerns about the safety of harbor transits. 

The 1,145’x150’, 89,000 ton APL Qingdao was outbound Friday from Port Newark, N.J., passing through the Kill Van Kull channel to head south for the bridge when the crew reported a loss of propulsion around 8:30 p.m. to the Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service, according to a statement from Coast Guard Sector New York. 

“The vessel regained propulsion and was assisted to safely anchor in Stapleton Anchorage, outside of the navigable channel just north of the Verrazano Bridge, by three towing vessels,” according to the Coast Guard sector public affairs office in New York. “These towing vessels were escorting the vessel as a routine safety measure, which is a common practice for large vessels departing their berth." 

The Coast Guard says the APL Qingdao’s propulsion was restored a short time later. It was not a complete loss of power, as apparently happened in the early morning hours of March 26 when the container ship Dali totally blacked out before crashing into the Francis Scott Key Bridge and collapsing it across Baltimore’s Fort McHenry channel.

The New York incident “differs from a loss of power, where the ship loses its ability to generate power for all systems onboard, including propulsion,” the Coast Guard statement noted.

News of the New York Harbor incident emerged on the social media channel X, when John Konrad V, CEO of the maritime news outlet gCaptain, posted a photo of the ship and a report from a local tug captain.

Earlier that Friday, the New York Times published an analysis of bridges across the United States, reporting on how those spans can be in danger from ship allisions because of deteriorated or non-existent protections around bridge supports.

 The Verrazzano Narrows bridge was included in that potential hit parade, along with other iconic and highly trafficked spans like the New Orleans Crescent City Connection.

The Coast Guard issued a Captain of the Port order to require certification from the vessel's classification society that necessary repairs were completed, the propulsion system was fully operational, and required the vessel operators to what led to the loss of propulsion. 

“The vessel met all of the requirements of the COTP order Saturday evening and safely departed New York Harbor Sunday morning,” according to the Coast Guard. By Sunday evening the ship was southbound off Delmarva according to AIS data.

Registered in Malta, the APL Qingdao is operated by CMA CGM.

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