26th March: Baltimore Bridge Collision

Switched on CNN on Tueday morning to find that a container ship, the Dali, had rammed one of the piers of a bridge at the entrance to Baltimore Harbour destroying the bridge.  The reporters were asking silly questions like “was there something wrong with the bridge which caused it to fail?” and they seemed more concerned with the effect of car traffic rather than the economic effect of closing the Port of Baltimore for a significant length of time.  I checked BBC News and they were no better.

Ship details from Marine Traffic: note the Status!

The video which was being shown on TV only showed the around the time of contact although a commentator said the lights had gone out on the ship for a short time earlier.  There was a black plume of smoke in the video which suggested to me that the ship had put its engines in full astern before ramming the bridge.  I went on Marine Traffic and found that after leaving port and turning towards the sea the ship gradually increased speed to 8.7 kts, but that around 0525 UTC  it swerved to starboard and started to reduce speed, ramming the bridge at 0529 UTC at a speed of just under 6.8 kts.  I emailed this info to BBC News but to no effect – it was only the next day I saw any Marine Traffic information being use!

Reports now say that the ship lost all power and put out a Mayday which enabled at least one end of the bridge to be closed at the toll booths which no doubt saved some lives (the local time of collision was 01:29 EDT on a cold night).  However the speed of deceleration shown by Marine Traffic and the amount of black exhaust smoke still makes me think that the ship had its engines in full astern when it hit the bridge.  The known casualties seem to have been from a repair crew working on the bridge who stood little chance on entering the 8C water.