On March 26, a Singapore-flagged container ship collided with Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge in the US, causing the structure to snap and collapse into the Patapsco River, resulting in the tragic death of six people.

The cargo vessel, ‘The Dali’, was headed for the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, but lost power shortly before it struck one of the key support columns of the 1.6 mile-long bridge.

Several vehicles fell into the water, as well as eight construction workers assisting with a project, six of whom died. The men came from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico, and had been tasked with repairing potholes on the bridge. The 22 members of the ship’s crew, including two pilots, were uninjured.

Footage shows parts of the four-lane bridge snapping and collapsing into the water.

Less than two weeks later, on April 7, another huge container ship lost propulsion in New York’s harbour and came to a halt close to the Verrazzano Bridge, in a similar scenario to the Baltimore disaster. Fortunately, the ship regained control and catastrophe was avoided.

The Baltimore bridge collapse has sparked major trade disruption, with at least a dozen cargo ships stuck inside the harbour area, and an unusable port.

Used by 31,000 vehicles each day, the Key Bridge is a central conduit for traffic in the area.

The US Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, has since alluded to growing concerns around the livelihoods of port workers, with around 8,000 jobs directly associated with port activities in the region. 

As seen with recent events in the Red Sea, and prior to that, with the pandemic; global events and incidents that disrupt key shipping routes and the movement of goods have major economic consequences, that ripple out far beyond the immediate region.

Recovery is not usually quick and easy, and when it impacts a major port such as Baltimore — one of the busiest in the country and a primary hub for shipping on the east coast — there are long-term impacts on global trade and the entire maritime sector.

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Deeper investigation and inspections of safety and protective measures for seafarers and workers within the industry also directly follow such major incidents, to avoid similar crisis involving cargo ships. These will be carried out by regulatory bodies such as the IMO (International Maritime Organisation).

Meanwhile, focus will be drawn to bridge safety, improved resilience around ageing infrastructure, and innovative technologies that can potentially help with early detection and warnings (such as AI) as well as advanced engineering solutions — for example, anti-collision poles surrounding the supports of bridges and navigational channels.


Navigating the Future of Shipping

In our upcoming programme, Navigating the Future of Shipping’, launching October 8, 2024, innovations and topics pivotal to the future of the maritime industry will be explored in depth, including climate change impacts and geopolitical stability, technological advances, and safety and welfare measures of all those who work in the sector.

Award-winning films with BIMCO

ITN Business has produced a series of short films in partnership with BIMCO, including ‘Ships Make the World Go’, aimed at raising awareness and understanding of the maritime sector and to celebrate the remarkable achievements of the industry.

Watch the two-minute film.

Paid content: This film is produced by the ITN Business commercial team and is not created by ITN news staff journalists. Approved by BIMCO.