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Four commercial channels at Port of Baltimore to be open by end of the week, Governor Moore says

Four commercial channels at Port of Baltimore to be open by end of the week, Governor Moore says
Four commercial channels at Port of Baltimore to be open by end of the week, Governor Moore says 02:51

BALTIMORE – Gov. Wes Moore gave an update on recovery efforts Tuesday afternoon, four weeks after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

"Something that was a crown jewel for our city, our state, and for our nation, collapsed into the Patapsco River," Moore said.  "We also know that four weeks ago today, the lives of six families were changed forever. They're facing a grief that does not go away in days. It doesn't go away in weeks; it does not go away in years."

Moore said the weeks following the collapse have been challenging, but they've also been inspiring because of the work officials and first responders are doing to make progress.

According to the governor, crews have lifted more than 2,900 tons of debris as part of salvage efforts overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

As of Tuesday, three temporary channels have been opened at the Port of Baltimore at various depths, including 10 feet, 14 feet and 20 feet. The governor said 145 commercial vessels have moved through temporary channels thus far.

"Our number one priority remains to restore commerce fully to the Port of Baltimore," RADM Shannon Gilreath, U.S. Coast Guard, said.

A fourth channel is scheduled to open by the end of the week, weather permitting, and stay open for four days. On Monday, crews removed a 560-ton section of structural steel, clearing wreckage from a 35-foot-deep limited access channel (LAC).  The LAC runs along the northern portion of the wider and federal channel and has been blocked since the collapse. 

It took almost three days to secure and remove this piece of metal, which weighs as much as a 747 jumbo jet, according to Unified Command.

"The reason the rigging and the lifting took so long is because of how deep entrenched this wreckage was not only in the mud, but also tangled up in collapsed wreckage below," Col. Estee Pinchasin, district commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said. "This will be able to provide some relief to the Port of Baltimore."

It will then close for 10 days to allow salvage crews back in the water to remove debris and refloat the Dali. The Port of Baltimore issued a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter saying this channel will not reopen until May 10. Crews say they are still on schedule to reopen the full Fort McHenry channel by the end of May.

"Members of unified command are literally pulling steel from the water with active vessels moving around them," Gov. Moore said. "The limited access channel will be controlled in terms of which ships are coming in. We will have additional support like tugs. They'll be able to support those initial ships coming in."

Officials say five ships are scheduled to leave the port this weekend. They've been stuck there since March. Three ships are scheduled to use this larger channel to come into the port, including a barge and a ship carrying aluminum.

Restoring commerce at the port is also a priority for state leaders.  Last week, the state launched the Port of Baltimore retention program, which will provide businesses with at least 500 workers with up to $200,000 in grant funding to avert layoffs.  

Moore said the state approved 129 applications to the program, totaling to about $9 million in state funding.

"That funding is going to protect the jobs of almost 1500 Marylanders, and 40% of those awardees are women and minority business enterprises," Moore said.

The Port of Baltimore worker support program provides temporary benefits to all port workers who lost income or work time due to the collapse.  That includes employees and independent contractors.

Two more economic support programs were launched Monday, according to the governor.

The Department of Housing and Community Development is offering low interest loans and grants to businesses impacted by the collapse.  

"We've received 23 applications from businesses totaling $3.4 million," Moore said.

The state also launched the Port of Baltimore Emergency Business Assistance Program, which awards companies up to $100,000 to companies whose shipments were disrupted as a result of the collapse.

Those grants are awarded on a first come, first-served basis.

On Monday, the City of Baltimore filed a lawsuit claiming the ship and crew were negligent. It is seeking damages for the cost to repair the bridge, the removal of the obstruction in the river and transportation interruptions. When asked about the specifics of those costs, Mayor Brandon Scott did not comment.

"My comment is simple. I will not comment on any pending litigation," Scott said.

The state says it is waiting for the investigation to be completed before considering any legal action against the ship's owners, or managers.

"We know that as the investigation goes on that we will be able to move forward in accordance with what the investigation," Moore continued.

Maritime legal expert Allen Black tells WJZ the claim filed by the city describes the impact this incident on Baltimore, but the claim may face challenges in court.  

"The claim is likely to face some challenges in court unless the city can prove that it has an actual ownership interest in the Bridge," Black said in a statement. "Under a nearly century-old principle of maritime law, a party that negligently injures the property of another is not liable to others for purely economic losses.  That principle was previously applied by the U.S. District Court in Maryland in an earlier case involving damage to a bridge, although under far less serious circumstances than in the current case."

Grace Ocean Private Limited, who own the Dali and its title, and the ship's manager, Synergy Marine Private Limited, filed a joint lawsuit seeking to limit their liability for the incident to the cost of the ship.

Both claims were filed well in advance of the September 24 deadline set by the District Court of Baltimore. Several other lawsuits are expected once more information from the investigation is released, according to a legal expert.

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