Baltimore recovery team opens second navigation channel around collapsed bridge

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The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge has halted shipping at the Port of Baltimore, significantly impacting energy-related trades. As the second-largest US coal export port, Baltimore handles about 28% of the country’s coal exports. The port, vital for exporting coal, saw a spike to 28 million short tons in coal exports in 2023 due to increased Asian demand. The port’s closure may affect this year’s export volumes, with other ports like Hampton Roads potentially offering alternative routes. Additionally, Baltimore is a key entry point for biodiesel, asphalt, and urea ammonium nitrate imports, mostly from Central America, Western Europe, and Russia. The bridge’s collapse disrupts these imports and the broader supply chain, highlighting the port’s significant role in the US energy and materials market.

Recovery efforts have created the opening of a second navigation channel, albeit restricted to smaller vessels, following the devastating collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge caused by a container ship crash. This newly cleared 14-foot-deep channel complements another 11-foot channel opened previously, yet the main 50-foot-deep channel remains obstructed, hindering major commercial shipping. The accident, which tragically claimed six lives, has partially resumed terminal operations outside the impact zone. Salvage challenges include navigating a “pancaked” tangle of wreckage underwater, complicating removal efforts. President Biden plans to visit the site and has committed federal support for recovery and reconstruction, with an initial emergency funding of $60 million and calls for further Congressional funding to rebuild the critical infrastructure.

Today the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced a tentative timeline for restoring safe navigation in and out of the Port of Baltimore. A limited access channel 280 feet wide and 35 feet deep will be open within the next four weeks – by the end of April – and allow one-way traffic in and out of the Port of Baltimore for barge container service and some roll on/roll off vessels. The goal is to reopen the permanent, 700-foot-wide by 50-foot-deep federal navigation channel by the end of May, restoring port access to normal capacity.

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