4783
Views

Bridge Collapse: Initial Reports Suggest a Loss of Power

Dali
Courtesy FBI Baltimore Field Office

Published Mar 26, 2024 4:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

As the search and rescue operation continues in Baltimore's harbor, the investigation into the cause of the allision between the container ship Dali and the Francis Scott Key Bridge is under way. Initial reports from regulators and federal authorities suggest that there are no signs of wrongdoing, and that a loss of power may have been the cause. 

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, the ship's flag state regulator, told local media that Dali had a "momentary loss of propulsion" and lost control of her heading, citing initial information it has received from the vessel operator. The crew dropped anchor prior to impact, MPA confirmed, and the port-side anchor chain is readily visible in photos from the scene. 

Clay Diamond, head of the American Pilots' Association (APA), told the New York Times that the vessel suffered a "complete blackout." The initial Coast Guard casualty report - obtained by the Baltimore Sun - also suggests that the bridge team observed "power issues, multiple alarms on the bridge, and the loss of propulsion prior to the incident."

In a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, President Joe Biden suggested that the casualty was accidental. "Everything so far indicates that this was a terrible accident," said President Biden. "At this time we have no indication, no reason to believe that there was any intentional act here."

The National Transportation Safety Board is on scene and has the lead in determining the root cause of the casualty. NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy has declined to comment on the specifics of the accident at this early stage, including the reports that the vessel lost power, but the agency is gathering data as the response unfolds. 

The voyage data recorder (VDR) will be an essential part of the inquiry. NTSB plans to recover the VDR from the Dali after search and rescue operations have concluded, but is waiting in order to ensure that it does not interfere with the emergency response. Homendy said that the agency's recorder team would likely go aboard the vessel Wednesday. 

"Right now it's about people. It's about families," said Homendy. "That is and should be the priority, always."