Baltimore Bridge Collapse: New Underwater 3D Images Show "Sheer Magnitude" Of Salvage Operation Ahead

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Apr 02, 2024 - 01:45 PM

Update (0945ET):

Local, state, or federal officials have yet to offer a timeline for salvage crews to completely remove the collapsed bridge from the main shipping channel entering the Port of Baltimore. 

On Tuesday morning, the Baltimore District, US Army Corps of Engineers published new 3D images of the wreckage at the bottom of the shipping channel on social media. 

"These 3D images show the sheer magnitude of the very difficult and challenging salvage operation ahead," the US Army Corps of Engineers said in a Facebook post. 

The post continued, "The underwater sonar imaging tool, known as CODA Octopus, is the primary survey tool used by divers, with visibility clouded to just one to two feet because of the four to five feet of mud and loose bottom of the Patapsco River." 

"Divers are forced to work in virtual darkness, because when lit, their view is similar to driving through a heavy snowfall at night with high-beam headlights on. So murky is the water, divers must be guided via detailed verbal directions from operators in vessels topside who are viewing real-time CODA imagery," Army Corps of Engineers pointed out. 

They added that "no usable underwater video exists of the wreckage" because, as one Navy diver put it, "there's no need to take video of something you can't even see."

The complexity of this salvage operation suggests the main shipping channel will be closed for weeks if not months. 

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Salvage crews at the Port of Baltimore have opened up a temporary channel to keep commercial traffic flowing one week after the collapse of the 1.6-mile-long Francis Scott Key Bridge. 

Officials said the narrow channel is 11 feet deep, with a 264-foot horizontal clearance and a 95-foot vertical clearance. Small barges were seen passing through the new channel, as the main shipping channel remained clogged with the mangled steel bridge twisted around the container ship "Dali."

"This marks an important first step along the road to reopening the port of Baltimore," US Coast Guard Captain David O'Connell, federal on-scene coordinator, said on Monday. 

O'Connell said, "By opening this alternate route, we will support the flow of marine traffic into Baltimore."

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation" that federal officials have no timeline for reopening the main shipping channel or rebuilding the bridge. 

"This is going to be a very complex process," Buttigieg said, adding, "There are, even now, forces acting on that steel, so it takes a lot to make sure that it can be dismantled safely, to make sure that the vessel stays where it is supposed to be and doesn't swing out into the channel."

On Monday, the Department of Defense stated three massive cranes have arrived at the collapsed bridge:

"The Chesapeake, a 1,000-ton lift capacity derrick barge, the Ferrell, a 200-ton lift capacity revolving crane barge, and the Oyster Bay, a 150-ton lift capacity crane barge have arrived in Baltimore Harbor."

The DoD added:

"An additional 400-ton lift capacity barge is on track to arrive early next week."

On Monday evening, US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath told reporters that salvage operations underneath the water are even more complicated than initially imagined:

"These girders are essentially tangled together, intertwined, making it very difficult to figure out where you need to potentially cut so that we can make that into more manageable sizes to lift them from the water." 

At the same press conference, Governor Wes Moore said: 

"We're talking about something that is almost the size of the Statue of Liberty ... and the scale of this project, to be clear, is enormous. And even the smallest (tasks) are huge."

Even with a temporary channel reopened, activity at the Port of Baltimore has crashed and will remain paralyzed until the main shipping channel is reopened. 

CBS News' Alex Glaze spoke with Scott Cowan, president of the local chapter of the International Longshoremen's Association, who warned, "If there are no ships, there's no cargo. If there's no cargo, there is no work." 

Cowan said thousands of unionized port workers could lose their jobs. 

ILA leaders have met with state and federal officials about the situation. 

Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson introduced emergency legislation to the General Assembly to provide stimmy checks for ILA workers. 

"In the coming days, the General Assembly will pass the PORT Act which will support workers not covered by our unemployment insurance system, ensure impacted businesses can retain their workforce and incentivize companies to come back to the Port after it reopens," Ferguson posted on X on Friday. 

The bridge collapse could have been avoided or at least not a total disaster if Maryland officials had not neglected to spend millions of dollars to install anti-ship strike barriers around critical bridge supports. Also, despite the federal government immediately coming out one week ago and saying the container ship strike was not terror-related, some users on X continue to float the idea this could've been "deliberate."