Temporary shipping channels to open around wreckage at collapsed Baltimore bridge

A temporary shipping channel has opened around the Port of Baltimore to keep commercial traffic coming into the city following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge last week.

It is located on the northeast side of the main channel close to the bridge site. It has been marked with government-lighted aids for navigation. Officials said the passage is 11 feet deep with a 264-foot horizontal clearance and a vertical clearance of 95 feet.

It will be accessible to commercially essential vessels, officials added. The action marks one of the first in the effort to reopen the channel. Over the weekend, authorities removed a 250-tonne part of the wreckage from the site.

“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. “By opening this alternate route, we will support the flow of marine traffic into Baltimore.”

On Monday, workers were focused on removing a 350-tonne part of the bridge. A representative of the US Coast Guard who spoke to reporters at an afternoon news conference said that officials were also working on creating a second southwest channel to help deeper vessels coming into the area.

The channel will measure 15 feet deep and open later this week, but Maryland Governor Wes Moore said that could depend on the weather, which is predicted to be stormy early this week.

Simultaneously, officials say they aim to open a third channel by clearing some of the debris where the bridge is located. That third channel is expected to be open in the coming weeks as officials remove significant parts of the bridge from the area. At least 8,000 people are dependent on jobs at the Port of Baltimore.

The structure collapsed into the water around 2am last Tuesday, sending eight construction workers into the Patapsco River below. Two were rescued. One had critical injuries while another was in stable condition. Another six men died, with two bodies being recovered from the water last week.

The remains of another four men are currently in the river under the debris. Mr Moore said one of his priorities is to reunite the men with their families as officials continue to clear the river of debris.

“The work is moving,” he said. “The mission continues”.