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Temporary channel opens to let trapped vessels start moving out of Baltimore Port

The opening of a temporary channel on the northbound side of the collapsed Baltimore Key Bridge has enabled a limited amount of tug and barge traffic around the container ship stuck at the disaster site, Maryland Governor Wes Moore said on Monday April 1st.

The tugboat Crystal Coast, pushing a fuel barge, was the first vessel to use the temporary channel (see video link below), less than a week after the Dali crashed into a bridge pier and caused the entire bridge to fall into the water – killing six people.

The fuel barge that was moved is used to provide jet fuel to the Department of Defence. It was en route to Dover Air Force Base.

The new channel, marked with government-lighted aids for navigation, has a controlling depth of 11ft, a 264ft horizontal clearance and a 95ft vertical clearance. It can only be used during daylight and is at the discretion of the Captain of the Port.

Recovery teams were working on opening a second temporary channel on the southbound side with a depth of 15ft to 16ft, Moore said, and it was hoped that it could open in a few days’ time.

A third channel was planned with a depth of 20ft to 25ft that would allow almost all tug and barge traffic in and out of the port, but first the bridge debris needed to be cleared from the water.

Two crane barges are working to lift wreckage in Baltimore, which will be transferred to a barge and processed at Tradepoint Atlantic using a land-based crane before disposal.

The US Department of Defence said on Monday that the US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) was helping the efforts to remove debris and to reopen the harbour. NAVSEA is responsible for contracting out the 1972-built 1,000-ton lift capacity derrick barge Chesapeake 1000 (which has an interesting history – see following story), the 200-ton lift capacity revolving crane barge Ferrell and the 150-ton lift capacity crane barge Oyster Bay, which had now arrived at the site. Another 400-ton lift capacity barge was scheduled to arrive in Baltimore over the next few days.

Some 50 recovery vessels were in the water working to clear debris and eventually free the cargo vessel stuck under steel bridge debris, with 370 people working on the operation.

The current 2,000-yard safety zone around the Francis Scott Key Bridge remains in effect.

Watch first vessel passing through (tugboat Crystal Coast pushes a fuel barge) at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNxueUIsHWU