Cargo Ship Hit With 2 Blackouts Before Ramming Into Baltimore Bridge

According to the NTSB investigation, on March 25, the cargo ship Dali was hit with two blackouts during maintenance before ramming into the Baltimore Bridge.

Cargo Ship Hit With 2 Blackouts Before Ramming Into Baltimore Bridge 1

A preliminary assessment from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was issued on Tuesday. It states that the shipping vessel that collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in March had two power failures while parked, ten hours before the incident that caused part of a bridge span to collapse.

Cargo Ship Hit With 2 Blackouts Before Ramming Into Baltimore Bridge 2
In this aerial view, a steel truss from the destroyed Francis Scott Key Bridge that was pinning the container ship Dali in place was detached from the ship using a controlled detonation of explosives in Baltimore, MD, May 13, 2024.

Fuel tests revealed no anomalies, according to federal officials, who are now concentrating their investigation on the ship’s electrical system. Furthermore, transportation officials disclosed on Wednesday that they anticipate the bridge to be rebuilt, if not sooner, by 2028.

Blackouts before departure

According to the NTSB investigation, on March 25, the Sri Lankan-owned container ship M/V Dali went through two blackouts while undergoing maintenance at the Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore Harbor.

The NTSB claims that one of the ship’s four diesel generators had an inline engine exhaust damper that was accidentally closed, preventing the engine’s exhaust fumes from leaving the vessel. The report stated that as a result, the diesel generators stopped operating and the engine stalled.

According to the NTSB report, another generator was activated when Dali’s systems noticed the power outage.

The first generator was successfully restarted by the crew. But minutes later, the NTSB reports that “insufficient fuel pressure caused [the second generator’s] speed to decrease, and its breaker… opened,” resulting in yet another blackout.

The first failing generator automatically started up again after workers managed to reopen the exhaust damper, and electricity was restored, according to the report.

Blackouts hit moments before the crash

Early on March 26, the Dali departed the port; however, it suffered two more blackouts before colliding with the Francis Scott Key Bridge at 1:28 a.m.

Cargo Ship Hit With 2 Blackouts Before Ramming Into Baltimore Bridge 3
Salvage crew members work on the deck of the cargo ship Dali as they work to free it in the Patapsco River in Baltimore, MD, May 10, 2024.

The NTSB claims that the primary engine was shut down and the propeller stopped as a result of the initial power outage. The NTSB claims that although the crew managed to restore power, the ship experienced another power outage just as it was getting closer to the bridge.

“The NTSB is still investigating the electrical configuration following the first in-port blackout and potential impacts on the events during the accident voyage,” the report said.

The NTSB reports that on the Dali’s most recent U.S. cruise, no documented blackout occurrences were noted when the ship was parked at ports in Norfolk, Virginia, and Newark, New Jersey.

The Dali’s lights were seen going out on camera, and smoke could be seen rising from the vessel before its collision with the bridge, which resulted in a partial collapse.

The aftermath

Authorities were able to close the bridge to oncoming traffic before to the collision because the crews on the cargo ship were able to alert them about the malfunction. Six workers, who were employed on the bridge, were killed in the collapse of the structure because they were unable to flee.

52 seconds passed between the ship pilot’s communication to the bridge’s operators and the bridge’s closing, according to NTSB Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy, during a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on the accident on Wednesday.

“If you just look at the time, from the blackout to the bridge strike, it was four minutes total,” she testified.

Cargo Ship Hit With 2 Blackouts Before Ramming Into Baltimore Bridge 4
Smoke rises following a detonation of explosives to free the container ship Dali, after it was trapped following its collision with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, MD, May 13, 2024.

For weeks after the collision, ships could not enter the Port of Baltimore because of the debris.

NTSB investigators are continuing to conduct their investigation while on board the M/V Dali. They rarely stay on board for this long, according to Homendy.

It can take up to two years to finish the final NTSB report that identifies the incident’s cause.

Although the Dali is still stuck at the collision site, recovery crews have made headway this week after on Monday they detonated controlled explosions to remove the bridge piece that was fixed to the ship.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s deputy commandant for operations, Vice Admiral Peter Gautier, informed the committee that the Dali is anticipated to be removed from the location as soon as next week.

Officials have stated that the rehabilitation of the Francis Scott Key Bridge will cost a lot of money and take longer. The committee was informed by Shailen Bhatt, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration of the Department of Transportation (DOT), that the bridge’s construction is currently scheduled to begin in 2028 and end the following year.

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A file photo shows the Dali cargo vessel, which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse in Baltimore, MD, April 4, 2024.

Rebuilding the bridge will cost between $1.7 and $1.9 billion, based on the Maryland government’s cost projections, Bhatt said. According to the DOT official, Maryland has a single $350 million insurance coverage on the bridge, which was built without assistance from the federal government.

According to Bhatt’s testimony, since the bridge accident, the DOT has given $60 million in emergency relief monies, and the Coast Guard has spent an additional $20 million in direct and indirect financing for cleanup and recovery work.

Just yesterday, a similar incident happened in the US as reported by GreatGameIndia. Following Baltimore’s incident, the Galveston Bridge collapsed after a large barge struck it. Concerns over bridge safety intensify amid infrastructure challenges across the US.

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