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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Dali back in Baltimore port, freed 55 days after striking and collapsing the Key Bridge

The container ship Dali is eased into the Seagirt Marine Terminal after being freed from the wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.    (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun/TNS)
By Jean Marbella </p><p>and Dan Belson Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE – Tugboats pushed the container ship Dali into the Port of Baltimore on Monday morning after crews refloated the vessel that had been stranded in the Patapsco River since it struck and collapsed the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26.

Around 8:40 a.m., the damaged vessel, with a chunk of pavement from the bridge still on its bow, entered the Seagirt Marine Terminal. It had been refloated about 2 hours earlier and had started moving slowly – almost imperceptibly – around 7 a.m.

“It’s a relief for all of us,” said Darrell Wilson, a spokesman for Synergy Marine Group, which manages the ship.

He lauded the work of salvage crews, which had begun laborious preparations Sunday to free the Dali, targeting the operation to take advantage of high tide in the Patapsco River at 5:24 a.m. Monday. The ship was immobile for the next 90 minutes, though, surrounded by salvage equipment, tugboats and a piece of the shattered bridge jutting from the water nearby as it has for nearly eight weeks.

Viewed from the south, at Riviera Beach in Anne Arundel County, the Dali slowly began moving around 7 a.m. after the long blare of a horn. Over the next hour, the freighter progressively moved faster as it was tugged backward into the Baltimore harbor. Then, the tugs pivoted the ship and towed it for roughly another hour toward Seagirt, where the Dali is expected to remain for a few weeks.

The original crew, 20 men from India and one from Sri Lanka, are expected to remain on board for now as the visas that they sail under are believed to have expired, Wilson said.

“At a certain point, we will be working with the authorities to see if we can get some shore leave granted for them,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to get the crew off the ship so they can get back to their families.”

That may take some time, though, as investigations in the the March 26 bridge strike continue and the crew may need to be questioned, Wilson said.

The FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board are among the agencies investigating the collapse of the bridge. In April, the FBI boarded the vessel and confiscated the crew members’ phones and have yet to return them. The crew was given replacement phones, but still lack the personal data on their original devices, Wilson said.

Two additional crew members were added to the ship to help with the extra workload, he said, with the goal of eventually swapping out the original crew.

Early Monday morning, Jim Shipp and Darryl Mason went to Riviera Beach to take drone shots of the Dali’s refloating from outside of the “No Drone Zone” surrounding the collapse site.

“I felt a connection to that bridge,” Shipp said, noting he’s always enjoyed the tranquility near the bridge and the history of nearby Fort Armistead.

The two hobbyists had flown their drones around Fort Armistead quite a bit before the collapse, taking plenty shots of the Key Bridge when it was still standing. Since March 26, they’ve been taking drone shots of the wreckage, response efforts and the memorial for the six men who died in the collapse.

Gov. Wes Moore was shown watching Monday’s refloating operation in a post by his spokesman on X, formerly Twitter. He was on a boat, about 500 feet from the Dali, when the vessel began moving.

Once en route to the port, the Dali moved at about 1.2 knots, according to an online ship tracker.

Dali freed from Key Bridge and moved to Port of Baltimore | PHOTOS

Visible on the ship as it progressed toward the port was a large gash on its hull, and a chunk of concrete from the bridge, which was part of the now-interrupted I-695 Baltimore Beltway.

The ship had been stranded with its 21-man crew in the Patapsco River since the collision that killed six construction workers who were repairing potholes on the span.

Crews have been working to clear the debris since then, and one week ago used controlled explosives to break up a massive section of the bridge that had landed on the bow of the ship. Crews then had to ensure a clear path for the ship back to port, and, on Sunday, began the final preparations for it to be refloated.

The removal of the ship, an action that drastically altered the silhouette of the bridge collapse site, was a large leap forward in crews’ efforts to clear the main shipping channel into the Port of Baltimore, which has received only limited vessel traffic over the past several weeks via temporary alternate channels. Before Monday, about half of the 50-foot deep, 700-foot wide federal channel was cleared. That channel is expected to fully reopen to commercial marine traffic by the end of the month.

To clear the Fort McHenry Channel to its full depth, it’s likely at least some dredging will be required, Cynthia Mitchell, a spokesperson for the Baltimore district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said in an email.

An estimated 60,000 to 70,000 cubic yards of sediment will likely need to be removed from the bottom of the Patapsco River, using digging buckets, Mitchell wrote. The sediment will be processed with 7% to 8% Portland cement until it solidifies, Mitchell wrote. Then, it will be loaded onto dump trucks and transported to disposal sites in New Jersey or Pennsylvania.