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Baltimore Port reopens after key bridge collapse

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  • The Port of Baltimore has fully reopened after an 11-week recovery effort following the Key Bridge collapse.
  • The restoration of the shipping channel is expected to significantly boost the local economy and port operations.
  • Collaborative efforts between federal, state, and local authorities were crucial in achieving the swift recovery.

The Port of Baltimore has triumphantly reopened its main shipping channel after an extensive 11-week recovery operation following the catastrophic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. This incident, which occurred on March 26, was triggered by a power loss on the Singaporean containership Dali, leading to a collision with a bridge support column. The tragic event resulted in the loss of six lives and caused significant disruption to one of the nation's busiest ports.

Federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, played a pivotal role in the cleanup and restoration efforts. Approximately 50,000 tons of debris were meticulously removed from the Patapsco River, allowing the Fort McHenry Federal Channel to be restored to its original dimensions of 700 feet in width and 50 feet in depth. This restoration has reinstated the channel's capacity to accommodate two-way traffic for large vessels, a critical factor for the port's operations.

Mayor Brandon Scott expressed his pride in the city's resilience, stating, "Baltimore has once again proven the world wrong. Despite being counted down and out, we have risen from the ashes." The economic impact of the bridge collapse was substantial, with the Baltimore region's economy estimated to have lost approximately $1.2 billion. This figure includes a significant decrease in port activity immediately following the disaster and ongoing losses due to reduced channel capacity.

The collaborative effort between federal, state, and local authorities, as well as private sector partners, was instrumental in the swift recovery. Maryland Governor Wes Moore highlighted the importance of teamwork, saying, "When we work together, we can accomplish great things." Initially, experts predicted that fully restoring the channel could take anywhere from six months to a year. However, the concerted efforts led to the completion of the project in just 11 weeks.

Jonathan Daniels, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration, emphasized the port's readiness to resume full operations. "Baltimore is back," he declared. "Our terminal operators are in place to welcome any cargo, any movement, any schedule." The reopening of the port is expected to significantly boost the local economy, which had been adversely affected by the bridge collapse.

The incident had forced companies like Mitsubishi Motors North America to divert their shipments to other ports. Mitsubishi had to reroute its cars to the port in Wilmington, Delaware, and truck them to Baltimore for accessory installation. However, with the port's reopening, Mitsubishi resumed its regular operations on May 25. "We expect to pick up operations essentially right where we left off," said Jeremy Barnes, a company spokesman.

Despite the progress, the port still faces challenges in regaining its pre-disaster levels of activity. Scott Cowan, president of Local 333 of the International Longshoremen's Association, reported that at the worst point, between 1,900 and 2,000 of his union's 2,400 members were out of work. "We're definitely over 50% of the workforce back to work, so it's going in the right direction," Cowan said.

The reopening of the Port of Baltimore marks a significant milestone in the city's recovery from the Key Bridge collapse. The restored shipping channel not only facilitates the resumption of regular maritime activities but also symbolizes the resilience and determination of the Baltimore community. As the port continues to rebuild and attract businesses, it remains a vital gateway for commerce in the U.S. Northeast.

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