First cargo ship passes through new channel since Baltimore bridge collapse

A cargo ship passed through a new deep-water channel in Baltimore on Thursday, the first to cross the new channel since the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed last month, shutting down most traffic in the Port of Baltimore.

The bulk carrier, Balsa 94, sailed out under a Panama flag Thursday morning using a new 35-foot channel, The Associated Press reported. It is headed toward St. John, Canada, and is expected to arrive next Monday.

It comes nearly four weeks after Dali, a 984-foot cargo ship, crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing the structure to collapse into the Patapsco River.

The ship issued a last-minute mayday call, allowing police to halt traffic moments before the crash, but eight individuals working on the bridge were unable to get off and were thrown into the water.

Two workers were rescued and survived, and the bodies of four victims have been recovered. Two more workers are still missing and presumed dead.

The collapse brought maritime traffic to a halt, and crews are still working through the massive cleanup process. The Balsa is one of five vessels previously stuck in the port that can now use the new temporary channel.

The new 35-foot channel opened Thursday morning, and is the fourth temporary channel created to circumvent the damage. The other channels have been primarily used by vessels involved in the cleanup effort.

The newest temporary channel will remain open until Monday or Tuesday of next week, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.

Earlier this week, the city of Baltimore filed court documents arguing the owner and operator of the Dali should not be able to avoid liability. The city claimed the vessel was “unseaworthy” when it left the Baltimore port last month and alleged Grace Ocean Private, the owner of Dali, and the ship’s operator, Synergy Marine Group, are “grossly and potentially criminally negligent.”

“For more than four decades, cargo ships made thousands of trips every year under the Key Bridge without incident,” the attorneys wrote. “There was nothing about March 26, 2024, that should have changed that.”

In the days after the collapse, Grace Ocean and Synergy asked a federal court to limit their legal liability to about $43.6 million.

The city is arguing this liability cannot be limited at this time without a trial, where the companies’ “failures” could be shown.

The Hill reached out to the city of Baltimore for further comment.

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