Crews Demolish Collapsed Baltimore Bridge, Paving Way to Refloat Cargo Ship

Demolition crews conducted a controlled explosion to remove the largest remaining span of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge from the container ship Dali in Baltimore. The operation marks a major step in freeing the ship and reopening the Port of Baltimore's main channel.

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Nitish Verma
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Crews Demolish Collapsed Key Bridge Span, Paving Way to Refloat Cargo Ship

Crews Demolish Collapsed Key Bridge Span, Paving Way to Refloat Cargo Ship

On Monday, demolition crews conducted a controlled explosion to remove the largest remaining span of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge from the container ship Dali in Baltimore. The ship crashed into the bridge on March 26, causing it to collapse and killing six construction workers.

Why this matters: The reopening of the Port of Baltimore's main channel has significant economic implications, as it affects thousands of jobs and businesses. A swift resolution to this incident is crucial to minimizing the disruption to global supply chains and trade.

The demolition involved carefully placed explosives that broke down the mangled 500-foot-long, 600-ton steel truss. When detonated just after 5 p.m., the explosives flashed orange and let off plumes of black smoke. The longest trusses toppled away from the grounded ship and slid off its bow, sending a wall of water splashing back.

Although the demolition successfully brought down most of the steel, a sizable chunk of the truss remained on the Dali's bow. Unified Command said no explosives were placed on that portion because of flammable materials in damaged shipping containers on the deck nearby. The remaining steel will be removed once the ship is docked at Seagirt Marine Terminal in the coming days.

The operation marked a major step in freeing the Dali, which has been stuck among the wreckage since the accident. Surveys will be taken to refloat the ship two days after the demolition. "After we do the precision cutting, we will then go back and resurvey the channel as well as survey around the Dali to make sure there are no obstructions that come from that precision cutting that would interfere with traffic," said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath.

The demolition will allow the Dali to be refloated and guided back into the Port of Baltimore. Officials aim to reopen the port's 50-foot main channel by the end of May. The collapse halted most maritime traffic through the busy port, affecting thousands of longshoremen, truckers, and small business owners.

The Dali's 21-member crew, comprising Indian and Sri Lankan men, stayed onboard the ship in a designated safe place during the demolition. They have been confined to the vessel for 49 days as federal investigations into the collapse continue. The National Transportation Safety Board is focusing on the ship's electrical system.

The controlled demolition was a critical milestone in clearing the channel and restoring operations at the Port of Baltimore. Col. Estee Pinchasin, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District, emphasized the methodical approach, saying, "We're going to have to lift it with the grabber or they'll be removing it after cutting it down some more, but we're continuing the salvage operations in the same methodical and disciplined safe way we've been removing wreckage all along."

Key Takeaways

  • Controlled explosion removes largest span of collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge from container ship Dali in Baltimore, following fatal crash on March 26.
  • Reopening of Port of Baltimore's main channel crucial for thousands of jobs and businesses, with economic implications for global supply chains.
  • Demolition employs carefully placed explosives to break down 500-foot-long, 600-ton steel truss, allowing ship to be freed from wreckage.
  • Sizable chunk of truss remains on Dali's bow due to flammable materials nearby, to be removed once ship is docked at Seagirt Marine Terminal.
  • Surveys planned to refloat ship and ensure channel safety, with aim to reopen main channel by end of May, restoring maritime traffic.