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Deepest open channel yet gives larger commercial vessels access to Port of Baltimore

Deepest temporary channel opens around Key Bridge collapse
Deepest temporary channel opens around Key Bridge collapse 03:17

BALTIMORE - The deepest channel since March opened on the Patapsco River at the site of the Key Bridge collapse, eight weeks since the Dali cargo ship slammed into the bridge, causing it to collapse. 

It will allow larger ships access to the Port of Baltimore.

In a statement, the Port of Baltimore said the 50-foot-deep, 400-foot-wide channel will be open around the clock with priority access to deep-draft vessels. They will require a Maryland State Police pilot and two tugboats as escorts.

"Over the last eight weeks, we've moved more than 500 commercial vessels through alternate channels into the Port of Baltimore," said Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath of the U.S. Coast Guard. "We will continue working on the rest of the channel to get it to that 700-foot width and we are still aiming for the end of May for the completion of that."

Praise for Dali removal operation

Timelapse video shows the successful removal of the Dali on Monday. 

Governor Wes Moore said the cargo ship will remain nearby at Seagirt Marine Terminal for the next four to six weeks

Moore shook the hands and led a round of applause for the crews and Unified Command members who led the successful effort to refloat the Dali.

"I'm very moved by the fact that I can now look out over the Patapsco River and not see the Dali anymore. It's a beautiful sight," said Moore as he pointed at the channel without the Dali behind him. "I will not be satisfied until I can look over at the same site and see the Francis Scott Key bridge standing again."

The governor praised the cooperation that led to the milestone removal effort. 

"People said it could take months to get to this point," Moore said. :This team got it done in a matter of weeks."

"Troubling" NTSB Findings 

The governor expressed concern over the National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report that the ship had two power outages the day before the tragedy. 

The blackouts happened 10 hours before the collision. 

At the time, the crew made adjustments to the electrical system. The NTSB found there were two more blackouts in the minutes before the Dali slammed into the Key Bridge. 

"They're troubling," Moore said. "They're troubling because we know that what happened on March 26 should not have happened, and we said from the very start that those who need to be held accountable for what happened on March 26 need to be held accountable in every way shape and form."

"We're working closely with our partners in the attorney general's office. We understand that this is going to be a lengthy process, but we believe in moving speedily and we believe in full accountability."

Ongoing work in the Patapsco River

Crews are still working to remove steel and debris in the Patapsco River. 

That work continued immediately after the Dali was moved on Monday.

"You can no longer see really any steel above the waterline in the areas outside the federal channel," Gilreath said. "They are going to continue to work on those sections of spans that are just north and south of the channel. They estimate they are going to be complete with that sometime in June."

Push for new bridge funding

The governor again pushed for full federal funding of a replacement Key Bridge, which needs bipartisan support and is expected to cost close to $2 billion. 

"Bipartisan momentum and bipartisan cooperation is not a talking point for us," the governor said. 

He promised the "American people will be made whole" from the investment. 

Addressing other vulnerable bridges

Governor Moore also spoke about the safety of other bridges, including the Bay Bridge, which will see heavy traffic for Memorial Day weekend.

The Bay Bridge, like the Key Bridge, is considered "fracture critical," meaning if a major support fails, the whole structure could fall.

"We need to make sure that every single critical infrastructure asset in our state is one that is protected, and the people of our state need to know and should know that they are safe being able to maneuver on them," Moore said. "But I think we saw the reason that we have put so much emphasis on [the Key Bridge recovery] as we see what happens when one of these core arteries is hit."

Other temporary channels

Aside from the Fort McHenry Limited Access Channel, three other temporary channels are open for ship traffic to the Port of Baltimore.

The Fort Carroll Temporary Alternate Channel is open 24 hours daily for non-deep draft commercial ships with a depth of 20 feet and a width of 135 feet.

The Hawkins Point Temporary Alternate Channel -- at 14 feet deep, 124 feet wide - is open 24 hours a day for non-deep draft vessels.

Sollers Point Temporary Alternate Channel is available for recreational vessels 24 hours each day with a depth of 11 feet and a width of 95 feet.

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