HomeTop StoriesSaturday's explosion should free the ship that hit the Key Bridge. ...

Saturday’s explosion should free the ship that hit the Key Bridge. What’s next?

BALTIMORE – The Dali has been entangled for the past six weeks in the remains of the Francis Scott Key Bridge that it tore down and has become a Baltimore landmark as crews work to clear the canal around it of debris.

But in the most dramatic move yet to free the ship, authorities plan to use explosives Saturday evening to cut into pieces a huge section of bridge on top of the container ship, clearing the way to free it and from the scene of the incident. next days.

If all goes according to plan, the explosion will sound like fireworks, look like clouds of smoke and plunge into the water the bridge pieces that have been weighing the ship down since the ship appeared to lose control and crashed into one of the span’s supporting pillars . 26, killing six construction workers.

However, in the immediate aftermath of the explosive budget cuts, the Dali will likely remain in the Patapsco River. Freeing a ship is a calculated, steady process and despite the sudden explosion, it’s best to refloat a ship slowly, experts say.

“You want the ship to move on your terms, not his terms,” said Mike Dean, executive director of the American Salvage Association.

If a ship is made too light and too fast, it can shoot up and swing around uncontrollably, potentially damaging the hull by hitting a piece of debris. “The last thing you want to do is put a hole in the ship,” Dean said.

After the explosions, which will last only a few seconds, the ship will likely remain moored for about two days, said Bob Petty, a spokesman for the Key Bridge Response Unified Command, while it is investigated.

Then, he said, it will be moved to the Seagirt Marine Terminal at the Port of Baltimore. The ship’s wreckage will be removed, researchers will reboard, the Dali’s condition will be further analyzed and the ship will be patched up before likely going to a yet-to-be-determined shipyard for further repairs.

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Every salvage effort presents unique challenges, especially the Dali, a 1,000-foot vessel that brought down 50,000 tons of steel and concrete.

Dean, the former executive director of the Navy’s salvage and diving division, has worked to free more than 20 ships during his career but has never seen a situation involving a bridge on a ship.

Dan Magone, a salvor based in Alaska, has led 79 efforts to free ships at least 55 feet in length and wrote a book, “Port of Refuge,” about his varied experiences.

“I never did anything twice,” he said.

Clearing the bow

Resolve Marine, a global ship salvage company that Magone once worked for, is leading the effort to free ships. It hired Controlled Demolition Inc., a Baltimore County company, as a subcontractor.

Rather than tasking a crew with physically cutting through the steel on the ship, which could shift and potentially cause injury, Unified Command said in a news release that it will use “precise cuts made with small loads,” calling it the “safest and most secure.” fastest method to remove the bridge piece.”

The explosive approach is expected to clear the 8- to 12-million-pound stretch of Interstate 695 that lies ahead of the Dali’s bow. Crews will later remove the blown-apart chunks from the water, Petty said.

During the explosion, which is expected to take place sometime after 5.30pm on Saturday, people within a radius of 2,000 meters are asked to wear hearing protection. That zone has a radius that covers mostly water, but also includes some businesses on Hawkins Point.

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“This controlled demolition is not what you would see in a movie,” said an animation from Unified Command. “From a distance it will sound like fireworks or loud thunder and appear as clouds of smoke.”

Unified Command plans to detonate the devices at low tide. That will likely leave the ship somewhat grounded even after the bridge pieces are removed, Dean said. Authorities will later refloat the ship using a combination of high tides and possibly the discharge of ballast water.

Critical to the rescue effort are investigations and analysis, said Tom Gilmour, a retired Coast Guard rear admiral who is a maritime consultant.

“You don’t want to be surprised,” he said.

Investigating the aftermath

Crews will have to see where the pieces land after blowing up the bridge section that is weighing down the Dali’s bow.

That includes an inspection of the ship, where it is located and what the wreck looks like underneath. A new riverbed survey may need to be conducted. Some dredging may be needed to get the ship afloat, Petty said.

Authorities will have to consider a Baltimore Gas and Electric Pipeline and an old water main in Baltimore City, which lie beneath the riverbed near the ship. The gas pipeline has been “inerted,” or stripped of its gas, but officials will still try to prevent damage to it if debris from the ship falls to the riverbed, experts say.

The ship is held by six mooring lines, keeping it stable against forces such as high tides, fast winds and the wake of ships passing through temporary channels nearby.

Intertidal ebb and flow this weekend near Hawkins Point is expected to be about a foot. Crews plan to wait for a high tide to have a better chance of refloating the ship, Petty said, also noting that in a best-case scenario, the Dali could be refloated immediately after the inspection.

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The Baltimore Sun received an email stating that the Dali is expected back in port “on or about May 14.” It has been sent to plaintiffs’ lawyers who have filed a complaint against the shipping companies that own and operate the Dali.

But that timing could change. The weather, which did not cooperate this week, plays a role.

“There are a lot of variables,” Petty said.

I’m bringing in the Dali

After the Dali is cleared to move, it will make its way to the Seagirt Terminal, Petty said.

How it gets there will depend on the circumstances. Petty said tugboats will “more likely than not” have to push it to the dock, just over two nautical miles from where the ship has been stranded since late March.

The ship is expected to remain there for a few weeks while the wreckage on the deck is cleared. Some of the containers will also be unloaded on board to make the deck accessible.

The email to plaintiffs said the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incident along with the FBI and other agencies, plans to be on board Tuesday and Wednesday. After investigators disembark, claimants will be allowed to enter the ship starting May 20 for the inspections they requested on board the ship.

At Seagirt, temporary repairs could be made to the ship, whose bow was seriously damaged by the bridge.

Any temporary repairs at Seagirt don’t necessarily mean the Dali no longer has a home; it may have to travel to a shipyard for permanent repairs. It’s “way too early to know” where the Dali might go, because engineers will have to conduct a thorough inspection once the deck truss is removed, Petty said.


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