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Baltimore Port’s Shipping Channel Opening Delayed

The full reopening of the Port of Baltimore shipping channel is being pushed back due to debris cleanup at the site of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which is taking longer than anticipated (Sourcing Journal).

What’s going on: “The Unified Command team responsible for cleaning up the debris and restoring the shipping channel to the Port of Baltimore said the pathway will be fully open to its original 700-foot width and 50-foot depth by June 8–10. This is a slight pushback from the original timeline to get everything cleared by the end of May.”

  • Earlier this month, workers cleared a 400-foot-wide section of the Fort McHenry Federal Channel, allowing deep-draft commercial ships into the Port of Baltimore.
  • Global shipping companies, including Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, have announced they will be bringing services back to the port.
  • The port was effectively shuttered from March 26—when the Dali container ship hit the bridge, causing it to collapse—until May 20, when the temporary channel was opened.

Why it’s important: “[E]ven though the damaged Dali has been refloated and removed to the port, the 400-foot channel is still narrower than before the bridge collapse, because one remaining section of the main span remains embedded in the mud.”

  • Removal will entail the work of salvage crews and is “more complex than initially estimated,” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in a statement last Friday.

The current situation: “The Coast Guard said Tuesday that 24-hour commercial vessel traffic through the Fort McHenry Limited Access Channel had commenced. Deep-draft vessels, which must be accompanied by a Maryland pilot and two escort tugboats, have priority in the 50-foot-deep channel, though shallower commercial ships can use the three other existing alternate channels.”

  • Baltimore is the nation’s 15th largest container port by 20-foot equivalent units processed, according to the Department of Transportation.
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