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Probably 6 dead after “Dali” accident – ship had valid class

Caption: © Harford County MD Fire & EMS

The cause of the serious accident involving the “Dali” and the subsequent bridge collapse in Baltimore has not yet been finally clarified. The container ship had valid classification certificates.

Two pilots were on board when the 9,962 TEU freighter of the Synergy Group, which was sailing under charter to the Danish liner shipping company Maersk, rammed a pier of the Francis Scott Key Bridge early on Tuesday morning, causing the bridge to collapse.[ds_preview]

Several cars and people were plunged into the water. Authorities called off the search for missing persons after 18 hours to avoid endangering the lives of rescue workers in the frigid waters at the mouth of the Patapsco River. Officials from the Maryland State Police and the US Coast Guard explained that the poor visibility and increasingly treacherous currents in the wreck-strewn channel made it too risky to continue the search on the river overnight. It is believed that six people lost their lives in the accident. Divers are to enter the water again this morning (local time) to continue the search.

“We don’t think we’ll find any of these people alive,” said Shannon Gilreath from the Coast Guard. Earlier, several workers had been rescued alive from the water. According to the Mexican consulate in Washington, the six workers presumed dead are from Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador.

“Dali” with pilots on board

Officials said all eight were part of a work crew repairing potholes on the Key Bridge roadway when the Singapore-flagged container ship “Dali”, which was leaving Baltimore for Sri Lanka, slammed into a support pillar of the bridge at around 1:30 a.m. (0530 GMT). An elevated section of the 2.6 km long bridge collapsed almost immediately. There were no injuries among the 22 crew members.

Shortly after the accident, the shipping company Synergy confirmed that the freighter had reported a failure of the on-board electrical system and a loss of propulsion shortly before the collision and had dropped anchor to slow the ship down. According to the authorities, this measure probably prevented a higher number of fatalities.

Despite the relatively quick collapse, the condition of the bridge is said to have been fine. The governor of Maryland, Wes Moore, said that the bridge complied with regulations and that there were no known structural problems.

“Dali” had valid class certificates

There are also discussions about the condition of the ship. The responsible flag authority in Singapore reported today that the “Dali”, which has been sailing under the Singapore flag since October 2016, is classed by ClassNK in Japan. Based on the relevant records, it can be confirmed that the required classification society certificates and the statutory certificates covering the structural integrity of the ship and the functionality of the ship’s equipment were valid at the time of the incident.

Accordingly, the “Dali” had also undergone and passed two separate inspections by foreign port states in June and September 2023. During the inspection in June 2023, a faulty fuel pressure monitoring instrument was rectified before the ship left port. The next classification and statutory inspections of the Dali are due in June 2024.

However, there are also more critical voices. For example, the news agency Reuters reports, with reference to the online portal Equasis, that an inspection carried out in Chile in 2023 revealed defects in the propulsion system and auxiliary engines.

The port was closed to shipping until further notice. US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said the closure would have a “significant and protracted impact on supply chains”. According to the port, the Port of Baltimore handles more cars than any other US port—more than 750,000 vehicles in 2022—as well as containers and bulk goods ranging from sugar to coal.

“Baltimore may not be one of the largest ports on the US East Coast, but it imports and exports more than a million containers every year, so there can be significant disruption to supply chains,” says Emily Stausboll of the industry service Xeneta. “Ocean freight services between the Far East and the US East Coast have already been impacted by the Panama Canal drought and the recent conflict in the Red Sea, which led to a 150% increase in rates, so this latest incident will exacerbate these concerns.”

He said it is likely that other major ports on the U.S. East Coast, such as neighbouring New York/New Jersey and Virginia, will be able to handle additional container imports if Baltimore is inaccessible, which could limit the impact on ocean freight rates. “However, there is limited port capacity available, leaving supply chains vulnerable to further pressure. The question is how quickly ocean carriers can set up detours, especially for ships already en route to Baltimore or for containers waiting in port to be exported,” the analyst said.

In the past, there have been a number of serious accidents involving ships hitting bridge piers. The maritime industry remembers the case of the “Cosco Busan” in 2007, when the freighter hit a tower of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco in fog. The hull ruptured and a major bunker oil leak occurred. The case occupied the courts for some time. The Hong Kong-based owner Fleet Management was ordered to pay 12 million dollars. The pilot on board was also sentenced.

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