Maritime terminal prepares for influx of redirected ships as Baltimore bridge cleanup continues

BALTIMORE– The only maritime terminal currently operating in the Port of Baltimore is preparing to handle an influx of ships as crews continue to clear the mangled wreckage of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Tradepoint Atlantic will unload and process an estimated 10,000 vehicles over the next 15 days, according to a company statement. That includes six regular liners and nine others being diverted as access to the port’s main terminals remains blocked, posing a logistical nightmare for shipping along the east coast.

Crews opened a second temporary canal through the collapse site on Tuesday, but it is too shallow for most commercial vessels. The two alternative channels are primarily intended to assist with the cleanup efforts. Work continues to open a third canal that would allow larger ships to pass through the bottleneck and restore more commercial activity, officials said.

Meanwhile, bad weather has hampered recovery efforts in recent days. The Patapsco River is also very murky, severely limiting divers’ visibility.

The bridge fell on March 26 after being struck by the freighter Dali, which lost power shortly after leaving Baltimore en route to Sri Lanka. The ship issued an emergency warning with just enough time for police to stop traffic, but not enough to rescue a roadwork crew that was filling holes in the bridge.

Authorities believe six of the workers fell to their deaths in the collapse, including two whose bodies were recovered last week. Two others survived. The ship remains stationary, the 21 crew members are still on board.

Viewed up close from the deck of a Coast Guard boat, heavy fog Wednesday afternoon revealed the extent of the catastrophe: Massive steel bridge girders were twisted like ribbons while broken metal shipping containers dangled precariously from the grounded freighter. The fallen street lamps that once lined the bridge stuck out of the water’s surface like toothpicks.

The sheer amount of debris dwarfed even the cranes and ships involved in the cleanup. And that’s just the view from above; Officials said the underwater conditions are significantly more challenging.

Divers are still trying to make sense of the tangled, muddy web. Sonar is used to map the wreck on the river bottom in 15 meters of water. A large floating crane nicknamed ‘Chessy’ will assist with the recovery.

Crews will soon begin lifting undamaged containers off the ship before removing pieces of steel and concrete embedded in the bow, U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Shannon Gilreath said at a news conference.

The Maryland Senate is in the process of passing a bill that would provide financial assistance to out-of-work longshoremen who are not covered by unemployment insurance. The bill would also let the governor use state reserves to help some small businesses avoid layoffs and encourage companies moving elsewhere to return to Baltimore once the port reopens.

President Joe Biden is expected to visit the collapse site on Friday.

Other ships are also stuck at the Port of Baltimore until shipping traffic can resume through the port, one of the largest on the East Coast and a symbol of the city’s maritime culture. It handles more automobiles and farm equipment than any other U.S. port.


Associated Press writers Brian Witte in Annapolis and Sarah Brumfield in Washington contributed to this report.