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Dali returns to Port of Baltimore after weeks trapped under Key Bridge collapse. Here's how it happened.

Dali cargo ship removed after trapped for eight weeks under Key Bridge debris
Dali cargo ship removed after trapped for eight weeks under Key Bridge debris 04:11

BALTIMORE -- The Dali, the 948-foot-long cargo ship stuck in the Patapsco River for weeks after it felled the Francis Scott Key Bridge, was refloated back to the Seagirt Marine Terminal Monday morning.

The ship arrived back at the Port of Baltimore around 9 a.m., a little more than two hours after departing from the collapse site.

The Dali was trapped under bridge debris for nearly eight weeks since the malfunctioning ship struck the bridge, causing its collapse and killing six construction workers, cutting off the port and demolishing part of I-695. 

The Dali was towed and pushed, with the assistance of five tugboats,  at a speed of 1 mph back to the port where it will be evaluated for repairs.

The Unified Command shared a timelapse of the entire removal of the Dali.

What's next?

It is a massive milestone in the effort to salvage the wreckage from the disaster and reopen access to the crippled Port of Baltimore. The ship's removal allows pre-collapse deep-draft commercial vessels to enter and exit the Port of Baltimore.

"The Unified Command continues to clear the remaining wreckage from the Fort McHenry Federal Channel," said the Unified Command in a joint statement. "We're pleased to see the successful refloating and moving of the M/V Dail today to its new location. We won't slow down until the channel is fully restored."

Unified Command, a multi-agency effort in the Key Bridge response, expects the operational width of the federal channel will soon be 400 feet wide to a depth of 50 feet. 

Salvage crews, using crane and barge assets already on site, will work to remove any remaining bridge wreckage, which will continue until the federal channel is restored to its original width of 700 feet and all steel below the mudline is removed.

"This marks the resumption of commercial vessel transits in and out of the Port of Baltimore," said the Unified Command. "This truly signifies the next chapter in restoring the waterway commerce in this region, which also serves as the economic engine for thousands of workers and their families who depend on commerce traveling through the Port of Baltimore.

Dali heads to Seagirt Marine Terminal after refloat U.S. Army Corp of Engineers

How was the ship refloated?

The process to refloat the ship and the salvage effort has been delicate and dangerous, involving giant floating cranes to move debris and relocate shipping containers, and using explosives to move tons of mangled steel and roadway.

Unified Command began preparing for the refloat operation Sunday afternoon, aiming to catch the high tide early Monday morning.  

"The refloat and transit sequence is deliberately designed to ensure all response personnel around the M/V Dali maintain control of the vessel, from refloat, transit to, and berthing at a local marine terminal," Unified Command said Saturday. 

Preparations included the release of anchors, de-ballasting the ship, and detailed inspections for any obstructions.  

What happens back at port?

The relocation of the ship, which is about the length of three football fields, brings Unified Command close to reopening the federal channel. 

A giant hydraulic claw will make that possible by removing pieces of the bridge embedded in the Patapsco River bed.

At the local terminal, any remaining wreckage on the ship will be offloaded and taken to Sparrows Point for recycling or disposal.

Dali's crew of 22 has remained on the ship since the March 26 accident, and will remain on the ship as it's transported. The crewmembers do not have the appropriate visas to leave the ship, our media partner the Baltimore Banner reported, so they rely on organizations to bring them essentials. 

It was not immediately clear if and when the malfunctioning ship might be able to sail again to leave the Port of Baltimore. 

Investigations ongoing, lawsuits launched

Since the collapse, the FBI and NTSB have launched separate investigations into the incident and Baltimore City announced a lawsuit against the owners and managers of the cargo ship, alleging negligence. 

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown was approved last week to contract five external law firms to assist in litigation over the collapse.

The Dali lost electrical power multiple times before leaving the Port of Baltimore and crashing into the Key Bridge, according to a preliminary report released last week by the National Transportation Safety Board..

The lawsuit claims the Singapore-based owners of the Dali were negligent in letting the ship leave the Port of Baltimore without fixing known power problems.

A final NTSB report, which would include conclusions and safety recommendations, should come in a year or two. You can read the full NTSB preliminary report here.  

TIMELAPSE: Dali refloated from Key Bridge collapse site 00:15
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