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Engineers to open temporary access to Baltimore port

The US Corps of Engineers, who are working to remove the Wreckage of Baltimores Francis Scott Key bridge, will open a temporary channel on the northeastern side of the main access channel.

Latest reports from the Maryland authorities have said the Captain of the Port (COTP) is preparing to establish a temporary channel for commercially essential vessels.

“This will mark an important first step along the road to reopening the port of Baltimore,” said Capt. David O’Connell, Federal On-Scene Coordinator, Key Bridge Response 2024. “By opening this alternate route, we will support the flow of marine traffic into Baltimore.”

However, the temporary channel will only have a 3.4m draught, an 80m horizontal clearance and a 30m height clearance.

According to the COPT: “This action is part of a phased approach to opening the main channel. The temporary channel will be marked with government-lighted aids to navigation.”

The 1.8km safety zone will remain in place for the time being as engineers and workers from a number of agencies, including the Coast Guard, US Army Corps of Engineers, Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland Transportation Authority and Maryland State Police, begin the process of cutting up and removing debris.

Meanwhile, Maryland’s governor, Wes Moore, called on Republicans to collaborate with their Democrat opponents to approve the federal funding needed to rebuild the bridge and to return the port to its pre-accident operational levels.

The legislative monitoring website, Roll Call, reported recently that the total cost of rebuilding the bridge could be as much as US$2 billion, as an early and rough estimate, however, transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg has said only US$950 million is available in the country’s emergency fund, and this will compete with other projects for the money.

As a result, action to raise further funds will necessarily require action from both houses of Congress, with the House controlled by Republicans and the Senate controlled by Democrats, to agree on the extra funds.

Buttigieg told journalists at the White House that, “Any effort to hold the ship’s owners accountable would happen separately”.

The 2.6km and bridge carried Interstate 695 over the Patapsco River and Baltimore port, collapsed after the 10,000 TEU Maersk Dali had an apparent power outage resulting in the vessel colliding with a bridge support. The accident has so far seen six confirmed casualties.

President Biden had said that he would “move heaven and earth” to reopen the port on the day of the accident, last Tuesday

Roll Call also reported that Maryland Democrat in the House of Representatives, David Trone, said on 27 March, “The state’s delegation was also working with Buttigieg to specifically use ‘quick release’ emergency relief funds from the Federal Highway Administration for initial response.”

Mary Ann Evans
Correspondent at Large

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