The Fort McHenry Federal Channel has been restored to its original operational dimensions of 213 metres wide and 15 metres deep for commercial maritime transit through the Port of Baltimore. Since March 26, the US Army Corps of Engineers and US Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving worked to clear Key Bridge wreckage and move the M/V Dali from the Federal Channel.

On 26 March, the container ship Dali lost power and allided with a pillar of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. It resulted in the bridge’s collapse, blocking entry to the port of Baltimore.

Following the removal of wreckage at the 15-metre mud-line, the Unified Command performed a survey of the Federal Channel on 10 June, certifying the riverbed as safe for transit. Surveying and removal of steel at and below the 15-metre mud-line will continue to ensure future dredging operations are not impacted.

The Unified Command safely moved the M/V Dali on the 20th of May and widened the Limited Access Channel to about 122 metres on 21 May, permitting all pre-collapse, deep-draught commercial vessels to transit through the Port of Baltimore. Now, the fully operational channel enables the flexibility to regain two-way traffic and cancel the additional safety requirements that were implemented because of the reduced channel width.

Also read: Last bridge section cleared from Baltimore channel

50,000 tonnes of bridge wreckage

Fully restoring the Federal Channel to its original width and depth involved the removal of about 50,000 tonnes of bridge wreckage from the Patapsco River. At its highest point, the Unified Command, consisting of six agencies, led the response efforts among about 56 federal, state, and local agencies, represented by 1587 individual responders.

Additionally, about 500 specialists from around the world operated a fleet of eighteen barges, 22 tugboats, thirteen floating cranes, ten excavators, and four survey boats. Subject matter experts from all over the US also provided essential technical knowledge to the Unified Command.

The wreckage will continue to be transported to Sparrows Point for follow-on processing. Follow-on work in the channel from this point on is part of routine maintenance, ensuring future dredging operations will not be impacted.

Also read: VIDEO: Container ship Dali refloated and towed to terminal

Other significant Unified Command milestones:

  • March 30: Removal of bridge wreckage commences
  • April 2: The first of three Temporary Alternate Channels opens, allowing shallow-draft vessels to transit through the Port of Baltimore
  • April 7: The removal of containers from M/V Dali began
  • April 25: The opening of Limited Access Channel to a width of 300 feet and depth of 35 feet
  • May 9: Recreational vessels permitted to transit through Key Bridge Response Safety Zone
  • May 13: Controlled demolition of Section 4, which had pinned the M/V Dali under a 10-million-pound segment of Key Bridge wreckage
  • May 20: M/V Dali refloated and moved, Federal Channel cleared to a width of 400 feet and depth of 50 feet
  • June 4: The last major piece of steel truss was removed from Federal Channel

Picture: The Chesapeake 1000 (“Chessy”) floating crane equipped with “Gus” the hydraulic grabber, wrestles a 90-tonne piece of residual wreckage Friday morning, June 7, 2024, from the Fort McHenry Federal Channel. Taking roughly 45 minutes to unfold, Chessy and Gus slowly lift the mangled steel high above the Patapsco River, so a waiting barge can move underneath, allowing the wreckage to be safely lowered onto the barge for immediate processing by waiting hydraulic sheers (US Army photo by Bobby Petty).

Also read: VIDEO: Charges break up bridge sections on top of Dali