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Six missing, feared drowned; bridge destroyed; port closed after Baltimore shipping disaster

The marine insurance industry could well suffer one of its most significant events since the Costa Concordia ran aground off the coast of Italy more than a decade ago, after container ship Dali (IMO 9697428) struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore at 00:30 local time on Tuesday morning March 26th. The Key Bridge, as it is known, is the world’s third-longest continuous truss bridge.

Shipping company Synergy Marine Group confirmed that its Singapore-flagged container ship Dali had collided with a pillar of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Denmark’s Maersk confirmed that it had chartered the vessel, but said that no Maersk employees were crewing the ship at the time. The Dali was on time charter to Maersk and operated by Synergy Group on the 2M service between Asia and the US East Coast.

Synergy Marine Group said that ‘whilst the exact cause of the incident is yet to be determined, the ‘Dali’ has now mobilized its Qualified Individual Incident response service’.

The vessel looked to have suffered a loss of power about three minutes before the incident.

A mayday signal was sent when the ship was approaching the bridge, Maryland Governor Wes Moore said. This led to a rapid scramble to stop traffic entering the bridge, and almost certainly saved many lives. However, there was not time to get six road crew, two of them Guetemalans, off the bridge.

Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath of the US Coast Guard said yesterday evening local time that the remaining missing men were presumed dead, based on the temperature of the waters they had fallen in and the length of time they have been under water.

The Singapore-flagged vessel reported a power issue before hitting the bridge at about eight knots, a ‘rapid speed,’ Governor Moore said.

An unverified report claimed that power went off at 01:24:32 and was restored at 01:25:30. Although that was only 45 seconds, it would have required another couple of minutes to bring the propulsion plant into operation under emergency conditions. But before this could happen, there was another blackout at 01:26:37, within a minute of the restoration of power supply, according to the unconfirmed report.

CBS News said that multiple officials had confirmed the Dali crew had tried to drop an anchor to stop the ship

All 22 crew members from India, plus the two pilots who were aboard to navigate the vessel out into open water, had been accounted for; there were no reports of any injuries, Synergy said. One of the pilots was said to be an apprentice

An unclassified memo from the government agency CISA – the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency – has confirmed that the Singapore-flagged vessel Dali ‘lost propulsion’ and collided with ‘a supporting tower of the bridge’.

The state transportation secretary said that the six missing, believed lost, were thought to be part of the construction crew that was working on the bridge at the time it collapsed.

He added that officials did not believe there is anyone missing that was in a vehicle when the span fell, although there were reports of several vehicles being in the water.

Video of the incident showed the ship ‘going dark’ about three minutes before the incident, with its lights reappearing only seconds before the allision with a pillar of the bridge. A large plume of black smoke appears to come from the vessel at this time. The vessel had veered to the right from its planned route. It was leaving Baltimore at the time, with Colombo, Sri Lanka as its listed destination.

The 9,962, 2015-built, 95,128 gt, Singapore-flagged, Dali is owned by Grace Ocean Pte Ltd of Singapore. It is managed by Synergy Marine Pte Ltd of Singapore. The vessel is entered with Britannia P&I.