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Weather Briefly Delays Lifting Operations at Baltimore Wreck Site

Poor weather at Dali wreck site
Image courtesy USCG

Published Apr 3, 2024 8:42 PM by The Maritime Executive

Salvage and clearance efforts for the wreckage of Baltimore's Key Bridge were delayed Tuesday and Wednesday by stormy conditions, which have pushed back the unified command's plans by several days. 

A planned 350-ton lift of a cut bridge section that had been planned for Monday is still pending, Coast Guard 5th District commander Rear Adm. Shannon Gilbreath told reporters Wednesday, because of inclement weather. The responders plan to resume that operation as soon as dry conditions return. 

A separate team is standing by to begin lightering off some of the undamaged containers aboard the boxship Dali. The vessel's bow is entangled with the bridge wreckage, and about one dozen boxes were crushed by the falling span. The unaffected containers in this area will be hoisted off and delivered to the pier at Tradepoint Atlantic so that salvors will have room to work on Dali's bow. However, crane operations for lightering are also delayed for reasons of weather. 

Dive operations have also been periodically interrupted because of thunderstorms, given the risk from lightning strikes, but will resume as soon as conditions allow. 

One of the unified command's first major actions was to reopen two temporary shipping channels. Eight vessels (tugs and barge tows) have used the channels so far, Gilbreath said. The two designated lanes are shallow, and will not be usable for oceangoing merchant ships; the full-scale resumption of shipping will have to wait until the clearance of the main channel. 

In good news for the river and the local community, water testing has shown no signs of fuel contamination or other pollution so far, according to the Baltimore Sun. Monitoring continues at the site, and booms are in place around the container ship as a precautionary measure. 

President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Baltimore and tour the site on Friday, his first trip to the city since the casualty occurred.