Baltimore Bridge’s Weight is Pinning Container Ship Dali to the Bottom

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In a reversal of the usual order for a major marine salvage operation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and its contractors will make the first big move in getting the wrecked container ship Dali out of Baltimore’s ship channel.

Dali’s bow is technically aground in the channel, said Vice Adm. Peter Gautier at a press conference Wednesday, because of the vast weight of the steel bridge span resting on top. The ship is pinned to the bottom and cannot move. There are no indications of damage below the waterline from this unusual load on the hull, but the wreckage of the span will have to be removed before the salvor – Resolve Marine – can take over and get the ship safely out of the channel. A dive inspection of the bow is scheduled for Thursday. 

The span is in the USACE’s set of responsibilities, Gautier said, and the Coast Guard will be working closely with the agency and its contractors as they perform the delicate task of pulling off the steel. 

The wreckage will be transported to a scrapping site at nearby Tradepoint Atlantic, Dredging Contractors of America CEO Bill Doyle told The Maritime Executive. He could not give an exact timeline for the work’s completion, but said that it would be faster than many observers might think, thanks to an abundance of available private-sector resources. 

The span is the biggest complicating factor in the salvage, but not the only one. Once it is removed, the response team will have to survey the bottom for debris and determine how entangled the vessel is with the remaining pier structure, Gautier said. There are also about a dozen containers on the bow of the ship that were damaged by the falling bridge, and two more that went into the water. 

National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer Homendy said Wednesday that some of the damaged boxes on the bow contained hazardous materials, and a sheen from a containerized cargo release has been observed in the water around the ship. 

The ship has about 1.5 million gallons of fuel oil and lube oil on board, but no signs of petroleum release have been spotted, Gautier said. 

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