Cargo ship collides with Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed onto MV Dali
Image: NTSBgov.

In a significant maritime incident early Tuesday morning, a large container ship, MV Dali, collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Baltimore's beltway, collapsing an entire span of the bridge. This accident has severed the vital connection between Baltimore's container port and the global shipping network, leaving at least six people missing.

Dali, constructed in 2016 by Hyundai, owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd, and operated by Maersk, struck a pillar of the bridge around 01:30 EDT (05:30 UTC). The timing of the collision likely avoided a higher casualty rate, which could have been much worse if the incident had occurred during peak traffic hours.< The collapse and subsequent blockage marks a severe disruption for the Port of Baltimore, important for both the local and national economy, as it processes, on average, 1.1 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), or containers, per year.

This disruption comes at a critical time for East Coast ports, already under strain from contract renegotiations and global rerouting of cargo due to various international logistics challenges. The incident is expected to exacerbate congestion and delays across the Eastern seaboard.

This incident is not Dali's first encounter with infrastructure damage; a similar, though less severe, event occurred in Antwerp in 2016. In the Antwerp incident, the crew—specifically the ship's master and pilot—was blamed for a collision with the dock. Though the investigation is on-going, early reports from Tuesday's collision indicate mechanical issues could be a factor, with reports of black smoke and flickering lights seen on the ship just prior to the collision.