A fourth emergency channel 35’ deep past the wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge allowed the first Baltimore ship transits since the containership Dali allision and bridge collapse March 26.

The Balsa 94, a 349’x62’ Panama-flagged bulk carrier, was the first to slip past Thursday morning, escorted by two Moran Towing tugs. Later that day the Carmen, a 760’x106’ Sweden-flagged car carrier, eased out on departure to Panama. 

The latest channel, on the northern shoulder of the 50’ federal Fort McHenry Channel, was prepared after salvors used the Chesapeake 1000 crane barge to move a 560-ton section of the bridge steel frame out of the way.

Three shallow-draft emergency channels have allowed limited tug and barge traffic to move past ongoing work to clear the debris, and remove the 985’ Dali, still pinned under part of the bridge span.

The 35’ channel will be open until April 29 or April 30 depending on weather conditions, then closed for operations to remove the Dali. Ship transits and their wakes affect how salvors can work on removing the rest of the wreckage, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said in an April 23 press conference.

"These boats are in such close quarters to our salvage team, they can literally feel the vibrations when these ships move by as the water shifts,” said Moore. “So does the wreckage, because you have to understand the enormity and size of these ships.”

Moore said the operation has continued around the clock without any worker injuries. A continuing priority is searching for two men still missing from a construction crew of six who were lost when the bridge deck collapsed.

Vessel transits will be timed in coordination with the bigger goal of clearing the deep channel for reopening in May, said Moore.
“We have to, and we will open the full federal channel,” he said. “We are going to work efficiently, and we are going to work safe.”

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