Controlled Demolition Clears Way for Refloating of Stranded Ship in Baltimore

Unified Command will conduct a controlled demolition of the Francis Scott Key Bridge's remaining steel beams on Sunday to free the stranded cargo ship, The Dali. The operation aims to restore maritime traffic in the Patapsco River and alleviate environmental and economic concerns.

author-image
Aqsa Younas Rana
New Update
Controlled Demolition Clears Way for Refloating of Stranded Ship in Baltimore

Controlled Demolition Clears Way for Refloating of Stranded Ship in Baltimore

In a dramatic effort to free the stranded cargo ship, The Dali, Unified Command is set to conduct a controlled demolition of the remaining steel beams of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on Sunday. The operation will involve using explosives to remove the steel truss, which is roughly 500 feet long, 80 feet wide, and weighs 8-12 million pounds.

Why this matters: The successful refloating of The Dali will not only restore maritime traffic in the Patapsco River but also alleviate concerns about environmental damage and economic disruption. The incident also highlights the importance of infrastructure maintenance and safety protocols to prevent such accidents in the future.

Demolition crews will employ a technique called precision cutting, which involves making cuts in the steel beams at specific locations and then placing charges encased in a wrap similar to a large piece of tape into the cuts. Col. Estee Pinchasin, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, explained, "These are very discrete, highly focused pressure charges that will be cutting through the steel. What you might see are these poofs of smoke around the wreckage."

The 21-person crew will remain on board the ship during the detonation, which will take place at least 10 feet above the ship. The charges will be detonated simultaneously, allowing the wreckage to fall out and away from the ship. Recent rainy weather has slowed down preparation work, making it slow and dangerous for the demolition crew working high up in buckets.

After the demolition, the Dali will remain stable on the bottom of the Patapsco River for a few days. The U.S. Coast Guard wants to refloat the ship safely on their terms, rather than risking a violent surge caused by Mother Nature. Baxter Smoak, the U.S. Coast Guard's chief of operations for the Key Bridge response, stated, "Having the vessel violently surge up is not in the best interest of safety or protection of other debris falling off the vessel."

A Baltimore-based company that managed the controlled demolition of the former Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown, New York, is working as a subcontractor to remove the steel beams of the Key Bridge off of the Dali. The same technique was used in March 2023 on the Gov. Harry W. Nice Bridge demolition in Charles County.

The Dali has been entangled with the remains of the Francis Scott Key Bridge since March 26, when it appeared to lose control and crash into one of the bridge's support piers, killing six construction workers. The controlled demolition, originally scheduled for Saturday evening, will pave the way for the ship to be refloated and pushed from the incident site in the coming days. After the demolition, the ship will remain in the Patapsco River for about two days before being moved to the Port of Baltimore's Seagirt Marine Terminal.