Another Boxship Loses Power in Baltimore's Harbor

Bellavia appears to drift to port off Dundalk, July 1 (Pole Star)
Bellavia appears to drift to port off Dundalk, July 1 (Pole Star)

Published Jul 3, 2024 4:33 PM by The Maritime Executive


On Monday morning, another boxship briefly lost power after leaving the pier at the Port of Baltimore, reinforcing concerns about navigational safety raised by the container ship Dali's disastrous allision with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in March. 

At approximately 0005 hours local time on Monday morning, after a brief port call, the container ship Bellavia departed the pier at the Dundalk Marine Terminal at Point Breeze, Baltimore. AIS data shows that she was moving at about 1.5 knots as she got under way. By 0016, she slowed to 0.4 knots and appeared to be drifting east, towards the adjacent ro/ro pier. She regained power and returned to the quayside at Dundalk, never moving more than a few hundred yards from her berth. 

Bellavia completed repairs and was cleared for departure by the Coast Guard later that day; she departed without further incident on Tuesday evening. 

The Bellavia's power loss differed from the incident aboard Dali in at least one important way: it occurred within yards of the pier. This means that under the longstanding navigation rules and norms for Baltimore's inner harbor, the vessel had tugs hired in to assist. Two harbor tugs were already nearby and took up positions alongside Bellavia, AIS data shows, and they escorted the vessel back to the pier. Bellavia never posed a threat to Baltimore's remaining vulnerable bridge crossing, the Bay Bridge, which is located further seaward - where vessels do not have a tug escort. 

Bellavia was the latest of three foreign-flag, deep-draft ships that reported a loss or reduction in power in the Baltimore region since the Dali incident in March, the Coast Guard told the Baltimore Sun. The paper has tallied more than 40 ships that lost propulsion, power or steering in Maryland's waterways over the last three years, illustrating the relative frequency of "dark-ship" incidents in an area with thousands of vessel transits per year.  

Bellavia is a 19-year-old Panamax boxship owned and operated in Germany. Her Equasis record shows that she accumulated 25 deficiencies in three port state control inspections last year, including citations related to propulsion equipment, auxiliary engines, oil filtering and fire safety equipment.