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Baltimore Port Reopening Schedule Established Amid Diver Challenges in Murky Waters

Baltimore Port Reopening Timeline Set; Divers Battle Murky Waters

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has provided a timeline for the cleanup operation following the collision between a cargo ship and the I-695/Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. Around 50,000 tons of steel and concrete debris lie underwater, some of it sunk 4 to 5 feet into the river bottom, equivalent to approximately 3,800 fully loaded dump trucks. The cargo ship, Dali, remains trapped beneath some of this debris since the bridge collapse on March 26, which claimed six lives. The recovery effort is ongoing, with three crew members still missing.

Naval Sea System Command (NAVSEA) Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) utilizes advanced sonar imaging technology to survey the wreckage located at the river bottom. However, visibility is severely limited due to murky waters, making the operation challenging. Despite these difficulties, the Corps aims to open a limited-access channel by the end of April, enabling restricted traffic flow for barge container service and certain vehicle carriers.

Baltimore Bridge

Baltimore Bridge (Credits: USA Today)

A permanent reopening of the wider and deeper channel is scheduled for the end of May, restoring the port to full operational capacity. Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commanding general, acknowledges the ambitious timeline, subject to potential delays caused by adverse weather conditions or evolving complexities of the wreckage.

The salvage operation’s complexity is exacerbated by the poor visibility in the Patapsco River, akin to driving through a heavy snowfall at night with high-beam headlights. Divers rely on voice commands from operators using the CODA Octopus sonar imaging tool to navigate through the debris.

Simultaneously, efforts are underway to remove containers from the cargo ship Dali, marking the next phase in freeing and extracting the vessel. Unified Command, overseeing the collapse response, coordinates these efforts alongside the wider wreckage removal operations.

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