Baltimore Port Channel Cleared for Reopening After Bridge Collapse

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Updated Jun 13, 2024
The 1,000-ton floating crane called 'Chessie' with hydraulic claw “Gus” hoist a 90-ton piece of wreckage June 7 from the Baltimore Port channel
The 1,000-ton floating crane called "Chessie" with hydraulic claw “Gus” hoist a 90-ton piece of wreckage June 7 from the Baltimore Port channel.
Bobby Petty, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District

Editor's Note: This story was updated June 11, 2024, with news that the port channel has been fully restored.

The 50,000 tons of debris left from the ship strike and collapse of the Key Bridge in Baltimore has been removed, and the port channel is now clear, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Unified Command overseeing the cleanup of the Fort McHenry Channel announced June 10 it had fully restored the 700-foot-wide, 50-foot-deep channel, and it was now safe for normal ship traffic to resume. 

“We’ve cleared the Fort McHenry Federal Channel for safe transit. USACE will maintain this critical waterway as we have for the last 107 years,” said Col. Estee Pinchasin, commander of U.S. Army corps of Engineers, Baltimore District. “I cannot overstate how proud I am of our team. It was incredible seeing so many people from different parts of our government, from around our country and all over the world, come together in the Unified Command and accomplish so much in this amount of time.”

Crews have been working around the clock since the bridge was struck March 26 by the cargo ship Dali, causing its collapse. They have been using massive barge cranes, including the largest floating crane in the eastern U.S. and the largest hydraulic claw, to remove the tons of metal and concrete that have blocked the channel, sinking deep into the muddy river bottom.

The Dali was stuck under the debris and eventually removed May 20 after controlled explosions.

"At its highest point, the Unified Command, consisting of six agencies, led the response efforts among about 56 federal, state, and local agencies, represented by 1,587 individual responders," the USACE reports. "Additionally, about 500 specialists from around the world operated a fleet of 18 barges, 22 tugboats, 13 floating cranes, 10 excavators, and four survey boats. Subject matter experts from all over the U.S. also provided essential technical knowledge to the Unified Command."

USACE says its oversight of the port channel now returns to routine maintenance to ensure that future dredging will not be affected.

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Unified Command consists of the following:

  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • Maryland Department of the Environment
  • Maryland Transportation Authority
  • Witt O’Brien’s representing Synergy Marine
  • Maryland State Police 

Plans Advance for New Bridge

As the cleanup nears the ends, the Maryland Transportation Authority is making plans for a replacement bridge over the Patapsco River.

It released a request for proposals for design-build teams May 31.

“The rebuilding of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore is a massive effort,” says MDTA Executive Director Bruce Gartner. “We need as many partners as possible pulling in one direction to help us accomplish our goals of reconnecting communities, getting Marylanders where they need to go and supporting commerce and the movement of goods throughout our region.”

Proposals must be in to MDTA by June 24. It plans to select the team this summer and expects to have a new bridge completed by Fall 2028.