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US: 8 Indian crew stuck for months on cargo vessel that crashed into Baltimore bridge depart for India

The MV Dali cargo ship with 20 Indian and one Sri Lankan crew members collided with the 2.6-km-long four-lane Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26. The accident resulted in the death of six crew members and the FBI and federal agencies in the US have launched investigations.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Baltimore Updated on: June 22, 2024 12:24 IST
Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore
Image Source : REUTERS Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore

Baltimore: Eight of the 20 Indian and one Sri Lankan crew members on a cargo ship 'Dali' that collided with a key Baltimore bridge in late March left for India on Friday after nearly three months on the 984-foot vessel, which is tentatively scheduled to leave for Norfolk, Virginia on Friday. The rest of the crew has been moved to a service apartment in Baltimore and will remain there pending an investigation.

The vessel collided with the 2.6-km-long four-lane Francis Scott Key Bridge over the Patapsco River in Baltimore in the early hours of March 26. The 984-foot cargo ship was bound for Colombo, Sri Lanka. Six people, who were part of a construction crew repairing potholes on the bridge when the collision occurred, died in the tragic accident.

The crew included 20 Indians and one Sri Lankan member. The departure of eight Indian crew members including a cook, a fitter and seamen follows a deal approved by the judge. None of these are officers. The rest 13 would remain in the US, mainly because of the pending investigations. Moreover, MV Dali will undergo repair at Norfolk.

Workers under considerable stress

The vessel is owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd and was outbound from Baltimore to Colombo and has a capacity of 10,000 TEU, with onboard units totalling 4,679 TEU. The vessel's deadweight is 116,851 DWT. None of the crew members have been charged in connection with the disaster. FBI and other federal agencies are conducting the investigations.

“They’re anxious, under considerable stress considering they don’t know the future. They don’t know when they’ll see their family again or how they’ll be treated here,” Rev. Joshua Messick, director of the Baltimore International Seafarers’ Center and chaplain for the Port of Baltimore told CNN.

Earlier, US President Joe Biden said that the crew on board Dali had alerted transportation personnel about losing control of the vessel, enabling authorities to close the Baltimore bridge to traffic before the devastating collision, “undoubtedly” saving lives.

What happened?

The operators of the Dali cargo ship issued a mayday call that the vessel had lost power moments before the crash, but the ship still headed toward the span at “a very, very rapid speed,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said. The vessel struck one of the 1.6-mile (2.6-kilometer) bridge’s supports, causing the span to break and fall into the water within seconds.

An inspection of the Dali last June at a port in Chile identified a problem with the ship’s “propulsion and auxiliary machinery,” according to Equasis, a shipping information system. The deficiency involved gauges and thermometers, but the website’s online records didn’t elaborate.

The ship was moving at 8 knots, which is roughly 9 mph (15 kph). Given the vessel’s massive weight, it struck the bridge support with significant force, said Roberto Leon, a Virginia Tech engineering professor. “The only way the post can resist it is by bending,” Leon said. “But it cannot absorb anywhere near the energy that this humongous ship is bringing. So it’s going to break.”

The impact of the accident

The collapse was expected to create a logistical nightmare for months, if not years, in the region, shutting down ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore, a major shipping hub. The accident also created cargo and commuter traffic snarls.

The port is a major East Coast hub for shipping. The bridge spans the Patapsco River, which massive cargo ships use to reach the Chesapeake Bay and then the Atlantic Ocean. The Dali was headed from Baltimore to Colombo, Sri Lanka, and flying under a Singapore flag, according to data from Marine Traffic.

The collapse, however, did have a big effect on worldwide trade because Baltimore is not a major port for container vessels, but the port’s facilities are more important when it comes to goods such as farm equipment and autos, said Judah Levine, head of research for global freight booking platform Freightos.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | Indian crew of cargo ship Dali that collided with Baltimore bridge to remain on board I KNOW WHY

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