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Second temporary passage clears way for more smaller vessels past Key Bridge collapse site

CBS News
BALTIMORE —  A second temporary passage was cleared Tuesday for commercial and essential ships in the Patapsco River following the collapse of the Key Bridge.

The 14-foot channel along the south of the disaster site will allow marine vessels access to the Port of Baltimore. An 11-foot channel, 264-feet wide, opened on Monday on the northeast side.

A fuel barge and scrap barge already made their way through that passageway.

“I’m thankful that only a week after the collapse, we have pathways and channels so commercial traffic can now move through,” Moore said.

The Tugboat Crystal Coast, pushing a fuel barge, was the first vessel to move through the original alternate channel on Monday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. It was headed to Dover Air Force Base with jet fuel. 

Larger ships still can’t pass

Governor Moore said larger ships need at least 35 feet of depth and a path at least 700-feet wide to move through to the Port of Baltimore. When clear, the depth of the river where the Dali crashed into the bridge is 50 feet.

“We are still a long way from getting the size and commercial back to where it was before the collapse,” Moore said.

“Today was an important milestone in the process of beginning to pull the wreckage out, beginning to open channels. We know we still have work to do,” he added.

A deeper third channel is in the works that would provide 25 feet of depth.

“I anticipate smaller draft commercial vessels, maybe some small tugs in the next few days,” U.S. Coast Guard Captain David O’Connell said. “That’s that 13 to 14 foot draft, but unfortunately, that’s not a lot of vessels. But it certainly is a start on our way to phase three, which will hopefully get us to 20 to 25 foot draft and that would be a lot more commercial vessels.”

Dangerous work

Moore said untangling the mangled mess of debris remains dangerous.

“We’re talking about a situation where a portion of the bridge beneath the water has been described by Unified Command as ‘chaotic wreckage,'” Moore said. “Every time someone goes into the water, they are taking a risk. Every time we move a piece of the structure, the situation could become even more dangerous. We have to move fast but we cannot be careless.”

Debris removal continues

The Unified Response team is continuing the difficult job of cutting away pieces of what remains of the Key Bridge, which collapsed when it was struck by the cargo ship Dali last week.

The salvage teams are working in a phased approach to opening the main channel, according to Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott’s office.

The current 2,000-yard safety zone around the Francis Scott Key Bridge remains in effect and is intended to protect personnel, vessels, and the marine environment. No vessel or person will be permitted to enter the safety zone without obtaining permission from the COTP or a designated representative, the mayor’s office said.

A survey is also underway to determine how hard the ground is around the Dali to help come up with a strategy for removal.

Who is working at the bridge disaster site?

The Unified Command is comprised of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland Transportation Authority, Maryland State Police, and business consultant Witt O’Brien’s, which is representing Synergy Marine, the Singapore company that managed the striking ship.

The governor’s office tells WJZ the cleanup effort at the wreckage site of the Key Bridge will be a “round-the-clock” effort until the Port of Baltimore is back open.

Moore said the priorities are recovering the four remaining victims, clearing the channel to open vessel traffic for the port, and supporting to those impacted by the disaster.

State and federal organizations are already working to provide economic assistance to individuals and small businesses that have been impacted by the collapse.

Tradepoint Atlantic takes cargo to assist Port of Baltimore

Tradepoint Atlantic in Sparrows Point is taking redirected cargo to assist the Port of Baltimore until the channels are cleared for all vessels.

Its marine terminal is accepting previously scheduled arrivals, while also providing additional capacity for redirected cargo.

Tradepoint Atlantic officials say they are “committed to accepting redirected cargo to help maintain the supply chain and re-establish commercial activity.”

A five-acre facility has also been cleared at TPA to store and process recovered bridge material.

CSX to redirect cargo to NY as Port of Baltimore remains closed

CSX added a new freight route to transport cargo to New York while the Port of Baltimore remains closed to larger ships.

“CSX is taking proactive steps to help mitigate freight shipment disruptions in the transportation industry by launching a dedicated service solution between Baltimore and New York, in response to the devastating March 26 incident in which a cargo ship collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge leading to its collapse,” the train company said.

The routes will be implemented next week to help with managing the traffic flow that would typically transit through the Port of Baltimore and transport freight between New York and Baltimore.

“While the timeline for resuming freight operations at the Port of Baltimore remains uncertain, we are in constant communication with our customers, providing timely updates on the status of their shipments,” CSX said. “CSX is fully dedicated to meeting our customers’ transportation needs during this challenging period.”

Aid sought for impacted workers

Eight people, part of a construction crew filling potholes, were on the bridge at the time of the collapse. Two were rescued, two bodies have been recovered, and four remain missing and are presumed dead.

“My focus is on making sure these families are getting the comfort and the closure that they need, making sure that our first responders are getting the supports that they need, making sure that we can get these channels open and making sure that we can get this Key Bridge rebuilt,” Moore said.

Maryland lawmakers are working on emergency legislation for income replacement to assist thousands of Port of Baltimore workers impacted by the disruption.

President Biden to visit Baltimore

President Joe Biden is set to visit Baltimore on Friday, according to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

The announcement follows Biden’s vow last week to visit Baltimore following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

The president also said he believes the federal government should pay for the bridge reconstruction.

If you find debris, call the hotline at 410-205-6625.

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