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

0
21

BALTIMORE (AP) — The only maritime shipping terminal currently operating in the Port of Baltimore is preparing to process an influx of redirected ships as crews continue clearing 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 statement from the company. That includes six regularly scheduled ships and nine that have been redirected since the deadly bridge collapse blocked access to the port’s main terminals, which remains closed to traffic in a logistical nightmare for shipping along the East Coast.

Crews opened a second temporary channel through the collapse site Tuesday, but it’s too shallow for most commercial vessels to pass through. The two existing channels are meant primarily for vessels involved in the cleanup effort, which began last week. Work continues to open a third channel that will allow larger vessels to pass through the bottleneck and restore more commercial activity, officials said.

Tradepoint Atlantic will also store and process the steel pieces of the bridge as they’re removed from the Patapsco River — a salvage operation that officials have described as incredibly challenging from an engineering and safety perspective.

Gov. Wes Moore has said rough weather has made the salvage effort even more daunting, with conditions that have been unsafe for divers trying to recover the bodies of the four construction workers believed trapped underwater in the wreckage. A large floating crane nicknamed “Chessy” is helping with the salvage.

Authorities believe six members of a road construction crew plunged to their deaths in the collapse, including two whose bodies were recovered last week. Two other workers survived.

The Maryland Senate is moving swiftly to pass a bill authorizing the governor to use the state’s rainy day fund to help port employees who are out of work and aren’t covered under unemployment insurance while the port is closed or partially closed. The Senate gave the measure preliminary approval Wednesday, with plans to vote on it later in the day.

Senators are working to pass the legislation to the House as quickly as possible. The bill also would let the governor use state reserves to help some small businesses avoid laying people off and to encourage companies that relocate to other ports to return to Baltimore when it reopens.

President Joe Biden, who has pledged significant federal resources to the recovery effort, is expected to visit the collapse site Friday. The Small Business Administration opened two centers this week to help companies get loans to assist them with losses caused by the disruption.

The bridge fell after being struck by the cargo ship Dali, which lost power early March 26, shortly after leaving Baltimore on its way to Sri Lanka. The ship issued a mayday alert, which allowed just enough time for police to stop traffic, but not enough to save a roadwork crew filling potholes on the bridge. The ship remains stationary, and its 21 crew members remain on board.

Other vessels are also stuck in Baltimore’s harbor until shipping traffic can resume through the port, which is one of the largest on the East Coast and a symbol of the city’s maritime culture. It handles more cars and farm equipment than any other U.S. port.

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

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

___

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

Source: post