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Baltimore Bridge Collapse

Port of Baltimore close to normal operations after Key Bridge collapse

Photo: Bob Petty, US Army Corp Engineers 8451891.jpg
Two months after the Dali bridge allision in Baltimore, it’s closer to “business as usual”.

At end May, the Unified Command for the Key Bridge Response, led by the US Coast Guard, announced that it had: “cleared a 400-foot-wide swath of the federal channel May 20, permitting all pre-collapse, deep-draft commercial vessels transit of the Port of Baltimore.”

Sections of the wreckage continue to be removed, with the Unified Command hoping to “fully restore the Fort McHenry Federal Channel to its original 700-foot width and 50-foot depth by June 8-10.”

On scene, work during the first week of June continues on removing portions of the downed bridge, following the end May lifting of a 500-ton piece of the bridge span, part of the effort to bring the channel width up to 700 feet, by Donjon Marine’s Chesapeake 1000, a heavy-lift crane barge capable of lifting 1000 short tons.  In early June, the “Chessie” was observed lifting a big section of the bridge span still in the water.

Cashman Marine’s bucket dredger Dale Pyatt, was also at work “doing the grunt work of cleaning up the road-bed from down off of the river bed” according to the Youtube channel of Minorcan Mullet, an observer of vessel salvage efforts. A recent video states that, for those who’ve been watching the channel, “they have seen the Dale Pyatt pick up some huge pieces of steel with its dredge bucket.”

Sterling Equipment’s deck barge Cape May was also visible on ship tracking websites, along with other Donjon equipment- including the tug Thomas D. Witte accompanying its dredger Oyster Bay.

As is always the case with maritime events in the States, the events in Baltimore have brought out proponents and opponents of the Jones Act, and a similar set of laws pertaining to dredging. These laws restrict coastwise activities to equipment which is built in US yards, manned by US crews, and registered in the US.

On the one hand, the proximity of equipment based nearby to Baltimore aided in the meeting the urgency of a response; early on, the US Army Corps of Engineers, which supervised the clean-up activities and re-opening of shipping channels, had thrown down the “end May” gauntlet for allowing deep drafted vessels to utilize the port’s 50 foot depth. Donjon was able to quickly move “the Claw” a HSWC500-1000 heavy duty hydraulic salvage grab that was attached to the Chesapeake 1000 to enable its heavy lifting up from the US Gulf aboard the VB 10000- a large catamaran barge used previously for work with offshore oil rigs; it arrived in Baltimore in late April for work removing bridge sections in the water.

key-bridge-salvage-1.jpg

The anti-Jones Act stalwart Reason Foundation had expressed concerns a day after the allision in Baltimore, writing that:” Like the Jones Act, the Foreign Dredge Act is a purely protectionist law that forbids foreign-built dredges—vessels built to remove debris from waterways and to deepen and widen shipping channels—from operating in the US”

They went on to express the concern that, “the primary outcome of the Foreign Dredge Act has been severely curtailing the number of dredges available to do important work like removing the wreckage of the Key Bridge.” Ultimately, the worries expressed by the Reason Foundation (and others) proved to be unfounded in this case.

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