Maritime Investigation: Preliminary report on the M/V DALI allision with the Francis Scott Key Bridge

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(www.MaritimeCyprus.com) On March 26, 2024, about 0129 eastern daylight time, the 947-foot-long Singapore-flagged cargo vessel (containership) M/V Dali was transiting out of Baltimore Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland, when it experienced a loss of electrical power and propulsion and struck the southern pier supporting the central truss spans of the Francis Scott Key Bridge (Key Bridge).

A portion of the bridge subsequently collapsed into the river, and portions of the deck and the truss spans collapsed onto the vessel’s forward deck. A seven-person road maintenance crew employed by Brawner Builders—which was contracted by the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA)—and one inspector employed by Eborn Enterprises, Inc., a subconsultant to the MDTA, were on the bridge when the vessel struck it. The inspector escaped unharmed, and one of the construction crewmembers survived with serious injuries. The bodies of the six fatally injured construction crewmembers have been recovered. One of the 23 persons aboard the Dali was injured.

Investigators concluded the DALI ship experienced two power blackouts within a couple minutes before it crashed into the bridge. The report details a harrowing four minutes endured by the crew aboard, including a senior pilot and apprentice.

According to the investigation, the vessel first lost electrical power at 1:25 in the morning, just over half-a-mile (approximately three ship lengths) away from the bridge. Specifically, two electrical breakers responsible for feeding most of the ship’s equipment and lighting, failed.This caused the DALI's main engine to shut down along with the cooling water and steering gear pumps.

As result, the ship's propeller stopped leaving the rudder inoperable. This triggered two emergency generators to take over the power supply.

Crew members were able to get main power restored, only for a second blackout to occur 0.2 miles from the bridge.This time another pair of breakers tripped, prompting the generator to kick in again.

Despite closing off the breakers and regaining power, the propeller never got back working before the collision. Between all the panic, the ship pilot was busy calling for tugs to assist and for anchors to be dropped. Although help was on the way, it was too late.

Meanwhile, a crew member in the process of releasing the brake on the port anchor had to escape to avoid being hit by falling bridge debris. Investigators are still reviewing how much anchor chain was rolled out. The collapse caused seven construction workers to fall into the water below, killing six of them.

Since the collision, investigators have dug more into the DALI's condition prior to setting sail from the Port of Baltimore.

About 10 hours before departing, the report reveals how the ship experienced two blackouts while undergoing maintenance.

The report says a crew member "mistakenly closed an inline engine exhaust damper." Investigators say this "effectively blocked the engine’s cylinder exhaust gases from traveling up its stack and out of the vessel, causing the engine to stall."

Although the crew got power back, the ship had insufficient fuel pressure causing a decrease in speed, ultimately leading to more breaker issues and a second outage. At this point the crew decided to switch breakers since they'd been heavily used over the last several months. It was those breakers that got switched out that failed leading up to the crash.

Following the crash all crew members tested negative for drugs and alcohol.There were also no problems identified with the quality of fuel used by the ship.

The State estimates a new bridge costing between $1.7 and $1.9 billion, with an approximate completion date of Fall 2028.

For more details the Preliminary Investigation Report can be downloaded below:

 

Source: USCG
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