Dali, a large cargo ship, crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Maryland (Credit: US Army Corps of Engineers/ Public Domain)

At around 1:30 a.m. ET on March 26, 2024, a massive container ship struck a crucial support column of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland. The impact of the 95,000-ton ship, called Dali, caused a large section of the bridge to collapse into the Patapsco River, plunging several cars into the water. The collision also shut down one of the busiest ports in the United States.

What happened?

Dali is the size of three football fields (Credit: R.Craig09/ CC-BY-SA-4.0/ Wikimedia Commons)

Dali was on its way to Colombo, Sri Lanka, at the time of the accident. The 948-foot (288-meter) long vessel was leaving the harbor when it briefly lost power. This, it appears, caused the boat to lose propulsion and veer off its path. The pilot tried to keep the ship on course. He also dropped the anchor to slow it down. But Dali was too close to the bridge to avert the disaster.

"I lost all steering," he told a dispatcher at the Association of Maryland Pilots shortly before the crash. "Tell them to clear all traffic on the bridge."

Was anyone hurt?

All 22 crew members aboard Dali survived the crash. However, the accident endangered eight construction workers who were on the bridge to fix potholes. According to an eyewitness, the workers were taking a break in their cars when the boat hit. The vehicles plummeted into the river when the bridge collapsed.

Rescuers managed to save two of them. Two other victims were found dead in a pickup truck on March 27. The remaining four workers are still missing and presumed dead. Baltimore officials say the death toll would have been higher if Dali's pilot had not sent out the mayday call to stop all traffic.

What has happened since?

Engineers have cleared some debris to create temporary pathways for ships to pass through (Credit: US Coast Guard/ Public Domain)

The US Navy and US Army Corps of Engineers began the arduous and complicated task of clearing the wreckage on March 30, 2024. To help with the challenging cleanup, they have brought in the region's largest floating crane ‚Äď the 191-foot (58-meter) tall Chesapeake 1000. Seven additional cranes, ten tugboats, and nine barges are also being used to lift and collect the debris.

As of April 4, 2024, two temporary pathways have been created to help move goods in and out of the busy port. A third channel for larger vessels is in the works and expected to open in the next few days.

Where is Dali now?

Dali is still stuck at the crash site (Credit: National Transportation Safety Board/ Public Domain)

Dali and its crew remain stuck at the crash scene. The container ship will only be able to return to the harbor after enough debris has been cleared and the channel is reopened. Meanwhile, the workers onboard are maintaining the boat in a way similar to what they would do if they were out to sea.

Will the accident affect the economy?

The Port of Baltimore handles more cars and trucks than any other port in the US. Its unexpected closure may disrupt supply, leading to higher vehicle prices.

The accident will also hurt the local economy. The state's governor, Wes Moore, believes closing the port for just a month will result in $28 million in lost business. The jobs of the 10,000 port employees and the over 140,000 people who work in businesses associated with port operations are also at risk.

Additionally, over 30,000 vehicles, including commercial trucks, cross the Key Bridge daily. They will now have to travel through the city of Baltimore or take a big detour. This will increase both the travel time and the cost of the goods they deliver.

How long will it take to rebuild the Key Bridge?

Sonar images of the bridge debris at the bottom of the Patapsco River (Credit: US Navy/ Public Domain)

Rebuilding the Key Bridge will be time consuming and expensive. Experts estimate it could take anywhere from 18 months to several years and cost between $600 million and $2 billion. President Joe Biden, who is meeting with Baltimore officials on April 5, has promised that the federal government will help pay for the new bridge.

Resources: CNN.com, NPR.com, PBS.org, Whitehouse.gov