Baltimore to Open Larger Temporary Channel as Dali is Readied for Removal

Baltimore channel
Progress continues as they prepare to open a 35-foot deep channel this week (USCG)

Published Apr 23, 2024 3:09 PM by The Maritime Executive


A month after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, Maryland and Baltimore officials along with the members of the Unified Command highlighted the strong progress that has been made in the recovery by announcing plans for a brief window to move large commercial vessels. In addition to having removed large sections of the bridge debris, they are also now focused on the removal of the Dali in the coming weeks.

Buoys and lights are now being laid in anticipation according to the Captain of the Port David O'Connell of establishing a temporary deep draft channel into the Port of Baltimore. The Unified Command reports it will open, depending on the weather, on Thursday, April 25, with a 35-foot draft, 300-foot horizontal clearance, and 214-foot vertical clearance. 

The plan is to run the channel for approximately four days to permit commercial vessels access. O’Connell reports there are seven ships trapped in the port ready to depart and they expect five, including a loaded car carrier, will use the channel in the coming days. In addition, a container barge, a smaller bulker, and an aluminum carrier are scheduled to enter the port. It will be the first movement of large commercial vessels since March 26.

Opening of the channel was made possible by the recent lifts, which between Sunday night and early Monday, April 22, included the largest yet completed. They removed a 560-ton section after two and a half days of prep and rigging. They also cleared debris that was wrapped around the piling to make the deeper channel possible. Another large 460-ton lift was completed on Friday. Governor Wes Moore reported today that a total of 2,900 tons of wreckage has been removed. 


(Map courtesy of USCG)


Movement on the deepest channel will be suspended starting next week till approximately May 10 as they prepare to remove the Dali. Coast Guard officers highlighted that they will be focusing on the span laying on the Dali and in early May they will be rigging and then lifting that section. Shortly after that, they expect the Dali will be freed and removed.

The Governor reports that 145 commercial vessels have used the three channels already established and they will continue movements during the upcoming work. This includes the 20-foot channel opened at the end of last week and the two prior channels with 10- and 11-foot draft clearance.

The Captain of the Port reviewed additional conditions for using the 35-foot draft channel which will include a requirement for a tug at the bow and another at the stern of each vessel and a minimum three foot under keel clearance. Due to the proximity to the Dali, speed must also be at or below 5 knots and transits will only be permitted while wind speeds are below 15 knots. They expect vessels below 50,000 dwt will be permitted, while vessels between 50,000 and 60,000 dwt will be individually reviewed, and vessels above 60,000 dwt will most likely not be permitted at this time.

Major shipping companies had highlighted that they were closely following these developments. Wallenius Wilhelmsen has a car carrier trapped in the port that had unloaded when the port was closed due to the collapse. Last week, Maersk advised customers that the temporary channels were not deep enough to accommodate the ocean going container vessels that Maersk and other carriers use to call at Baltimore. They reported they were waiting for details from the Captain of the Port. Maersk advised customers today, April 23, that the temporary 20-foott channel, "could potentially allow Maersk and other carriers to operate limited barge services into and out of the Port of Baltimore."

The officials said today they expect to have the 35-foot channel reopened in mid-May. The port is on track to fully have the 50-foot channel reopened by the end of May.