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First ship uses alternate channel to bypass wreckage at Baltimore bridge collapse site


BALTIMORE (AP) — A tugboat pushing a fuel barge was the first ship to use an alternate channel to bypass the wreckage of Baltimore’s collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, which had blocked traffic along the port’s main shipping channel from Baltimore.

The barge supplying jet fuel to the Department of Defense left Monday evening and was destined for Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, although officials said the temporary canal was primarily open to vessels helping with cleanup efforts. Some barges and tugboats stuck in Baltimore Harbor since the collapse are also expected to pass through the canal.

Officials said they were working on a second canal on the southwest side of the main canal that would allow deeper-draft vessels, but they did not say when that might open.

Gov. Wes Moore is scheduled to visit one of two centers opened by the Small Business Administration in the region on Tuesday to help businesses obtain loans to help them deal with losses caused by the disruption from the bridge collapse.

In Annapolis, a hearing is scheduled for Tuesday on a bill to authorize the use of state reserves to provide financial assistance to port employees out of work because of the bridge collapse. Lawmakers are working to pass the bill quickly in the final week of their legislative session, which ends Monday.

Crews are undertaking the complex job of removing steel and concrete at the site of the fatal bridge collapse after a container ship lost power and crashed into a support column. On Sunday, dive teams inspected parts of the bridge and checked the ship, and elevator workers used torches to cut away above-water portions of the twisted steel superstructure.

Authorities estimate six workers died in the collapse, including two whose bodies were found last week. Two other workers survived.

Moore, a Democrat, said at a news conference Monday afternoon that his top priority was recovering the four remaining bodies and then reopening shipping channels. He said he understood the urgency but that the risks were significant. Crews described the mangled steel beams of the fallen bridge as a “chaotic wreck,” he said.

“What we’re finding is that it’s more complicated than we initially hoped,” said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath.

Meanwhile, the ship remains stationary and its 21 crew members remain on board for the time being, officials said.

President Joe Biden is expected to visit the site of the collapse Friday to meet with state and local officials and review federal response efforts.

The bridge fell when the freighter Dali lost power on March 26, shortly after leaving Baltimore en route to Sri Lanka. The ship issued a Mayday alert, which gave police just enough time to stop traffic, but not enough to save a roadworks crew that was filling potholes on the bridge.

The Dali is managed by Synergy Marine Group and owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd., both based in Singapore. Danish shipping giant Maersk chartered the Dali.

Synergy and Grace Ocean filed a court motion Monday seeking to limit their legal liability, a common but important procedure for cases tried under U.S. maritime law. A federal court in Maryland will ultimately decide who is responsible and how much they owe.

The filing seeks to cap the companies’ liability at about $43.6 million. He estimates that the ship itself is valued at $90 million and was owed more than $1.1 million in cargo revenue. The estimate also deducts two major expenses: at least $28 million in repair costs and at least $19.5 million in salvage costs.

Officials are trying to determine how to rebuild the major bridge, completed in 1977. It carried Interstate 695 around Southeast Baltimore and became a symbol of the city’s working-class roots and maritime culture.

Congress should consider aid programs to help people who lose their jobs or businesses due to the prolonged closure of the Port of Baltimore. The port handles more cars and farm equipment than any other U.S. facility.


Associated Press journalists Brian Witte in Annapolis contributed to this report; Tassanee Vegpongsa in Baltimore; Sarah Brumfield in Washington; Michael Kunzelman in College Park, Maryland; and Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho.


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