Paths cleared to get ships past collapsed Baltimore’s key Bridge

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Baltimore, April 2, 2024 – Paths are being cleared to get ships past the mangled wreckage at the Key Bridge collapse site to the Port of Baltimore.

U.S. Coast Guard Captain David O’Connell, the federal on-scene coordinator for the Unified Response to the bridge collapse, said in an exclusive interview with CBS News two auxiliary channels are planned to open Monday: one along the northeast section of the channel, and one running along the south.

The north side would accommodate boats requiring 10 feet of water or less to operate, while the south side would accommodate boats requiring up to 14 feet. There’s pre-existing debris along the south side of the channel the Coast Guard is working to remove.

“We’re working with salvage to pull that out of the water tomorrow,” O’Connell said.

The two temporary channels will mainly be for response vessels, commercially essential vehicles and those participating in salvage efforts.

A deeper third channel is in the works that would require up to 25 feet of depth to operate, but more debris surrounding the striking ship, the Dali, needs to be removed.

“I anticipate smaller draft commercial vessels, maybe some small tugs in the next few days,” O’Connell said.

“That’s that 13-to-14-foot draft, but that unfortunately, that’s not a lot of vessels. But it certainly is a start on our way to phase three, which will hopefully get us to 20-to-25-foot draft and that would be a lot more commercial vessels.”

A 200-ton piece of the bridge was removed from the crash site Saturday as crews continued to clear the debris from the bridge, which collapsed when it was struck by a cargo ship last week.

“This will mark an important first step along the road to reopening the port of Baltimore,” O’Connell said. “By opening this alternate route, we will support the flow of marine traffic into Baltimore.”

This action is part of a phased approach to opening the main channel, according to Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott’s office.

The channel will be marked with government-lighted aids to navigation and will have a controlling depth of 11 feet, a 264-foot horizontal clearance, and a vertical clearance of 96 feet.

The current 2,000-yard safety zone around the Francis Scott Key Bridge remains in effect and is intended to protect personnel, vessels, and the marine environment. No vessel or person will be permitted to enter the safety zone without obtaining permission from the COTP or a designated representative, the mayor’s office said.

A survey is also underway to determine how hard the ground is around the Dali to help come up with a strategy for removal.

The Unified Command is comprised of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland Transportation Authority, Maryland State Police, and business consultant Witt O’Brien’s, which is representing Synergy Marine, the Singapore company that managed the striking ship.

The governor’s office tells WJZ the cleanup effort at the wreckage site of the Key Bridge will be a “round-the-clock” effort until the Port of Baltimore is back open.

Gov. Wes Moore also said the effort “is going to be a long road.

“It’s a very complex operation, but movement is happening,” Moore said on “CNN Sunday Morning.”

Moore said the priorities are recovering the four remaining victims, clearing the channel to open vessel traffic for the port, and providing support to those who have been impacted by the crisis. (CBS)

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