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Six still missing after Baltimore bridge collapse

One member of the public seriously injured in ‘unthinkable tragedy’ as Biden vows to rebuild

Rescuers are searching the Patapsco river for six missing people after the Maersk-chartered boxship Dali lost power and crashed into a Baltimore bridge. All crew members, including two river pilots, have been accounted for and no pollution reported

A SYNERGY Marine-managed, post-panamax containership lost power and struck Baltimore’s Key Bridge while departing the port early on Tuesday, with six people still missing and one seriously injured. 

The 9,900 teu Dali (IMO: 9697428), which is on time charter to Maersk and operates between the US east coast and the Middle East and Asia, departed from the Port Breeze container terminal at around 0045 hrs local time and appears to have collided with the bridge at around 0130 hrs, according to Automatic Identification System tracker data.

The six people who fell from the bridge are thought to be road workers fixing potholes on the bridge. A mayday call from the ship came in time for officials to clear the bridge of cars. 

US President Joe Biden told a press conference the people who cleared the bridge “undoubtedly saved lives”. He said the coast guard would continue the search and rescue and the US Army Corps of Engineers would clear the channel to reopen Baltimore to ship traffic. 

President Joe Biden added that he expected the US Government would pay the full cost of rebuilding the bridge and asked Congress to help efforts to fund repairs.

Video footage posted online indicates the vessel had some mechanical issues just prior to hitting the bridge. Lights on the vessel can be seen going dark, coming on, then going out again just before the vessel hit the bridge’s support column. There is speculation about fuel quality. 

“Owners and managers of the Singapore-flagged containership Dali report that the vessel collided with one of the pillars of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, Baltimore while under pilotage with two pilots on board, at approximately 0130 hrs local time on March 26,” said a statement provided by crisis management company MTI Network.

It said that all crew members, including the two pilots, have been accounted for and there are no reports of any injuries to the crew. No pollution has been reported from the ship.

MTI added that while the cause of the incident has yet to be determined, the vessel has now mobilised its Qualified Individual Incident response service.

“The US Coast Guard and local officials have been notified, and the owners and managers are fully co-operating with federal and state government agencies under an approved plan.”

A spokesman for Maersk said: “We are horrified by what has happened in Baltimore, and our thoughts are with all of those affected. We can confirm that the container vessel Dali, operated by charter vessel company Synergy Group, is time chartered by Maersk and is carrying Maersk customers’ cargo. No Maersk crew and personnel were on board the vessel.”

He added that Maersk was closely following the investigations conducted by authorities and Synergy. “We will do our utmost to keep our customers informed,” he said. 

A video posted on X shows a significant portion of the bridge collapsing, with several vehicles on the bridge falling in to the water below. All lanes of the bridge were closed in both directions, with traffic being detoured, according to Maryland Transportation Authority.



Baltimore City Fire Department director of communications Kevin Cartwright had earlier reported at least seven people missing.

Cartwright added that some cargo, believed to be from Dali, was hanging from the bridge, thereby creating unsafe and unstable conditions. This will complicate the rescue operation.

“This is a dire emergency. It is too early to know how many people were affected and it is a developing mass casualty event.”

Baltimore City Fire Department fire chief James Wallace told a press conference on Tuesday morning that “dozens” of city and state authorities were responding to the crash.

Wallace said two people were pulled from the water, one unhurt and the other seriously injured.

He added that sonar had detected cars underwater.

“We are still very much in an active search and rescue posture,” and would be for some time, he said.

Rescuers needed a damage assessment of the ship before they can board it.

There was no confirmed fuel spill, but there were “odours of diesel”.

The press conference was told there was no indication the crash was deliberate or a terrorist attack.

Baltimore mayor Brandon Scott called it “an unthinkable tragedy”.

The 2015-built Dali is one of a series of 10 post-panamax containerships built for Greek shipowner Oceanbulk by South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries. It is classed by ClassNK and entered with Britannia P&I Club*.

According to Lloyd’s List Intelligence data, since its entry in to service the vessel has had 21 routine port state control inspections with no detentions being recorded. 

The casualty is likely  to have a major impact on the port of Baltimore’s operations over the coming weeks as the investigation into the bridge collapse takes place and the waterway is cleared of debris.

For box shipping, this will mean the diversion of Baltimore’s 1.1 m annual teu throughput to other eastern seaboard terminals.

“The bridge collapse will mean that, for the time being, it will not be possible to get to the container terminals,” said Vespucci Maritime chief executive Lars Jensen.

“This is some 21,000 teu per week that now has to be routed through other ports in the region. Additionally, this means the cargo already gated into the Baltimore terminals would have to either wait an unknown period for the sea lane to reopen, or be gated back out and shifted to a different port.”

Xeneta analyst Emily Stausbøll said that while Baltimore was not one of the largest US east coast ports, there was the potential for port closure to cause significant disruption to supply chains.

“Far East to US east coast ocean freight services have already been impacted by drought in the Panama Canal and recent conflict in the Red Sea, which saw rates increase by 150%, so this latest incident will add to those concerns,” she said.

It was likely other larger US east coast ports such as neighbouring New York and New Jersey and Virginia could handle extra container imports while Baltimore was inaccessible, which would limit any effect on ocean freight shipping rates.

“However, there is only so much port capacity available and this will leave supply chains vulnerable to any further pressure,” Stausbøll said.

“The question is how quickly ocean freight carriers can put diversions in place, particularly for vessels already en route to Baltimore or containers at the port waiting to be exported.”

MSC Toronto (IMO: 9299525) exited the harbour shortly before the incident, but MSC Alina (IMO: 9695016), which was due to call at Baltimore turned just outside the port entrance and returned to the Annapolis anchorage. Other containerships due to call in the coming days include Maersk Gironde (IMO: 9235555) and MSC Kumsal (IMO: 9305506).

Baltimore is also a significant US port for car imports with one vehicle carrier operated by Wallenius Wilhelmsen, the 5,200 car capacity Carmen (IMO: 9505027), alongside the port at the time of the incident.

A second car carrier, the Zodiac Maritime-owned Brooklands (IMO: 9748289) is also at the port of Baltimore, understood to be under charter to Japan’s K Line.  

Three bulk carriers are presently at the port including Oldendorff Carriers’ 82,000 dwt, kamsarmax bulker Klara Oldendorff (IMO: 9849007).

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story erred in reporting that Gard was Dali's P&I club, when in fact the ship is entered with Brittania. Gard insures a tanker of the same name, but that was not the ship that hit the Baltimore bridge.

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