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Stable Shipping Rates Amid Baltimore Bridge Collapse, but Challenges Loom Ahead

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Stable Shipping Rates Amid Baltimore Bridge Collapse, but Challenges Loom Ahead

Despite the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, ocean freight container shipping rates have remained stable, according to data from Xeneta, an ocean freight analytics platform.

Xeneta reports that average spot rates from the Far East to the US North East Coast, including Baltimore, have seen a slight decrease of 1 percent since the bridge collapse, standing at $5,421 per FEU. Rates for other US East Coast ports, such as New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), have decreased by 3 percent in the same period.

Read also: Baltimore Bridge Collision Sparks Surge in Container Price

Similarly, average spot rates from North Europe to the US North East Coast have fallen by 8 percent to $2,357 per FEU, with a 4 percent decrease when including other US East Coast ports.

Peter Sand, Xeneta Chief Analyst, notes that while spot rates have not seen a significant change, shippers with cargo destined for Baltimore are experiencing disruptions, with containers being redirected to ports like New York/New Jersey. This incident adds to the challenges already faced by supply chains, including diversions in the Red Sea region and drought in the Panama Canal.

The Port of Baltimore plans to reopen navigation channels by the end of April and May, restoring port access to regular capacity. However, concerns linger regarding potential labor strikes on the East Coast, with the International Longshoremen’s Association contract set to expire in September. Sand warns that failure to reach an agreement could lead to widespread disruption at US East Coast ports, potentially driving up rates for ocean freight container services and prompting some shippers to explore alternative import routes.

As recovery efforts continue, the shipping industry braces for potential labor disruptions while navigating the aftermath of the Baltimore bridge collapse.

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Virginia and Baltimore Companies Unite to Solve Shipping Challenges Post-Bridge Collapse

Following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore, companies from Virginia and Baltimore have banded together to navigate the ensuing shipping challenges creatively. As debris clearance progresses, the supply chain faces hurdles, but collaborative efforts are paving the way forward.

Jason Pruitt, owner of Commercial Transportation Intermodal in Baltimore, acknowledges the ongoing complexities despite inventive solutions emerging. Temporary channels have been opened to mitigate the bottleneck, but rerouting cargo through Norfolk, Philadelphia, and New York presents its own set of challenges, particularly with drivers facing driving limit constraints.

Kacy Payne of Evans Delivery Company’s Land Transportation branch introduced the “Drop Lot” solution, easing the burden on Baltimore drivers. By allowing them to drop containers at a designated lot north of Richmond, Norfolk drivers can then take over for delivery to the Port of Virginia, and vice versa for cargo destined for Baltimore. This strategy helps drivers avoid exceeding their daily driving limits, enabling them to make two moves a day within allocated hours.

Ensuring proper insurance coverage during cargo transfers poses a significant hurdle, especially for smaller trucking companies. Larger companies like Evans Intermodal Transportation leverage their extensive network and standardized processes to streamline insurance transfers, offering support to smaller players.

To enhance efficiency and transparency, artificial intelligence (AI) technology will be deployed to track cargo possession throughout the supply chain. Kevin Speers of Splice, a Virginia Beach-based IT company, explains how AI will enable real-time tracking of truck and container information, facilitating seamless transfers.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shep Miller emphasizes Virginia’s commitment to assisting the Baltimore shipping community, endorsing innovative solutions like the Drop Lot.

As collaborative efforts between Virginia and Baltimore intensify, the shipping industry is adapting to the challenges posed by the bridge collapse, showcasing resilience and innovation in overcoming logistical hurdles.

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Strengthening and Streamlining Terminal Operations: A Smarter Path with Tideworks Technology and Advent eModal

For most people, the shipping industry only pops on their radar after disaster hits. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic snarled supply lines, creating months-long shipping issues. This March, the box ship Dali collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge, blocking access to the Port of Baltimore and possibly causing a “significant ripple effect on global supply chains.”

Though, for industry professionals, shipping is top of mind 24/7, 365 days a year. Maritime shipping moves roughly 11 billion tons of goods each year. It does so while navigating challenges such as terminal congestion, detention and demurrage issues, the growing need for real-time visibility and automation, and the need to make the industry more environmentally sustainable.

Logistics get even more complex at intermodal port and terminal operations. These sites manage the transfer of containers and goods from ships to different modes of transportation: rail and trucks. Two cutting-edge companies have teamed up to strengthen port and terminal operations by streamlining data for better real-time visibility and easing friction across terminal operations through automation.

Collaboration Through Innovation

Tideworks Technology is a global technology brand and leading provider of terminal operating systems (TOS). Founded in the 1990s by Carrix, a multinational shipping entity, Tideworks has grown from an in-house IT provider to a software development company that helps marine and intermodal terminals move tens of millions of containers more efficiently each year.

Advent eModal is an industry leader in software solutions that provide executional tools and APIs that offer cargo visibility, terminal pre-advice and appointment setting, payment processing and data-enabled business intelligence across intermodal industries. Their cloud-based port platform is in each of the top 10 largest port communities, helping to optimize container volumes, increase truck turn times, and ease areas of friction with more control.

Together, Tideworks and Advent eModal are strengthening terminal operations and streamlining complex sets of logistics through real-time visibility. This has translated to increased efficiency, enhanced throughput, and more significant cost savings for terminal operators across the globe.

Industry Challenges

Outside forces have continually buffeted the shipping industry. However, stakeholders are also facing internal challenges around real-time access to cargo data, optimizing fluctuating container volumes, terminal congestion issues, and navigating sustainability and green initiatives.

So far, in 2023, there has been an uptick in U.S. container import volumes. Ports and terminals need real-time visibility and automation to optimize container volumes and move cargo through intermodal operations more quickly and efficiently.

Container volume issues also contribute to terminal congestion. A lack of real-time visibility into operations creates friction points between terminal operators, port authorities, and rail and motor carriers. These friction points, in turn, lead to congestion and the detention and demurrage issues that come with inefficient operations.

The industry, too, is working to address sustainability and green issues. Moving empty containers or containers with low volumes is not only inefficient—but it also contributes to environmental issues. Streamlining appointment schedules at intermodal terminals reduces emissions and gives operators more control for smoother operations.

Addressing Today’s Challenges

Tideworks’ TOS allows terminal operators to manage movement within ports, optimize yard space, and coordinate the different and complex types of terminal equipment through real-time data. It gives clients a single point of access to a wealth of data to help streamline and simplify processes, providing access to essential information in decision-making. Better data means better visibility, and that means better decisions.

Advent eModal’s SaaS solution extends that real-time visibility as goods and cargo move through ports. It gives beneficial cargo owners and terminal, motor and drayage carrier stakeholders access to cargo data, execution of the transfer, and information into truck volume in real time. It is truly a port-to-depot-to-delivery big picture that streamlines operations at each link in the supply chain.

Working together, Tideworks and Advent eModal streamline and strengthen shipping operations, increasing truck turn times while reducing idling and dwell times. Take, for example, the Port Everglades Terminal (PET).

PET’s new gate appointment system, powered by Advent eModal’s solution, went into effect in July 2023 to automate capabilities across its container terminal. Applications like eModal’s PreGate and Fee Manager increased the port’s cargo visibility and velocity while facilitating fee payments, and appointment functions more seamlessly. The partnership between Tideworks and Advent eModal allowed PET to scale its services for customers and supply chains by addressing some of the most pressing industry challenges.

The two companies also partnered with Genesee & Wyoming Inc. to implement solutions specifically for U.K. rail and terminal operations. The combination of the solutions helped ease chronic congestion.

Before the help of Tideworks and Advent eModal, it took Genesee & Wyoming two hours to clear gate queues at the beginning of each week. With the new TOS, it began clearing the gate in 20 minutes. The turnaround time for the more than 4,000 truck visits to the Birmingham, Cardiff, Doncaster, and Liverpool terminals dropped to below 26 minutes. Since that deployment, Tideworks and Advent eModal have supported G&W’s automation initiatives with deployments spanning several Freightliner and Pentalver sites.

The improvement isn’t just about efficiency. By streamlining and optimizing its operations, Genesee & Wyoming enhanced productivity, which helped scale container volumes across the Birmingham and Cardiff terminals and reduce truck turn times. All of these improved efficiencies result in greater throughput while lessening the environmental impact of idling trucks and wasted trips. The partnership also reduced operating costs, improved data accuracy, and created more positive customer experiences through pre-screening capabilities and predictive container planning.

The collaboration between Tideworks and Advent eModal redefines what is possible for intermodal shipping with integrated gate and TOS solutions. More control and a greater understanding of operations from port to depot to delivery, paired with predictive container planning, are helping operators strengthen and streamline terminal operations in an industry where timing and logistics are everything. 


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WTO Forecasts Global Trade Rebound Amidst Challenges and Uncertainties

The World Trade Organization (WTO) anticipates a resurgence in global merchandise trade after a sluggish performance in 2023. Projections suggest a 2.6% growth in trade volume for the current year, followed by a further increase of 3.3% in 2025, driven by declining inflation and improved economic conditions.

While last year’s 1.2% decline in trade was larger than anticipated, particularly in Europe, it remains relatively modest overall. However, the region’s subdued trade growth was attributed to factors like high commodity prices, notably natural gas, which impacted both exports and imports.

Looking ahead, Asia is poised to play a significant role in driving global trade, accounting for a substantial portion of both exports and imports. Africa’s exports are also expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, showcasing resilience and potential growth in the region.

Despite the positive outlook, geopolitical tensions, supply chain disruptions, and climate change effects pose risks to the trade landscape. Recent attacks on commercial ships and disruptions in key maritime routes highlight ongoing challenges faced by the global trading community.

Services trade, on the other hand, remained robust, with notable growth observed in financial and insurance services. However, geopolitical tensions have contributed to a riskier environment, impacting trade patterns and flows.

The WTO underscores concerns regarding rising protectionism and potential fragmentation in trade flows, emphasizing the need for collaborative efforts to sustain the recovery and promote inclusive trade practices.

While uncertainties persist, the WTO remains cautiously optimistic about the resilience of global trade. However, continued vigilance and concerted action are essential to navigate the evolving trade landscape and mitigate potential risks to the recovery.

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“Maryland Governor: Baltimore Port to Resume Full Function by May’s End”

Maryland Governor Wes Moore has announced an ambitious plan to restore full functionality to Baltimore’s key shipping lane by the end of May. The announcement comes in the wake of a devastating incident in late March when a massive container ship collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing extensive damage and claiming the lives of six construction workers.

Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Governor Moore affirmed the commitment to the accelerated timeline, emphasizing the round-the-clock efforts underway to meet the target. Despite the challenges posed by the scale of the damage, Moore described the proposed timeline as “realistic” and assured that every effort would be made to ensure its achievement.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working towards reopening the channel leading to the Port of Baltimore by the specified deadline, aligning with Governor Moore’s determination to expedite the recovery process.

In response to the tragedy, President Joe Biden has pledged federal support for the reconstruction efforts, reaffirming his commitment to assisting Maryland and Baltimore in overcoming the aftermath of the disaster. During a recent visit to the site of the bridge collapse, President Biden reiterated the government’s responsibility to hold those accountable for the incident while providing aid for the restoration and maintenance of the region’s vital business and commerce activities.

Governor Moore expressed solidarity with the affected families and communities, vowing to prioritize their needs throughout the recovery process. With a united effort from both state and federal authorities, plans are underway to not only reopen the shipping channel but also to commence the rebuilding of the bridge, symbolizing resilience and determination in the face of adversity.

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Beware of Overhyping the Impact of Baltimore’s Bridge Collapse on Supply Chains

The collapse of the Baltimore bridge is a tragedy. But the impact on supply chains at a global or even North American level won’t be huge – and overhyping it could risk losing public trust and fanning the flames of inflation. Let’s avoid crying wolf.

US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg’s comment last week was a bit much: “This will be a major and protracted impact to supply chains.” I doubt it.  

The collapse was shocking and the deaths of six construction workers a tragedy. Plus, the people of Baltimore will remember it with sadness forever. But the impact on supply chains at a global or even North American level won’t be huge.

What happened

The exact failure of the container ship Dali is still unknown, but video images show a loaded vessel losing its lights, and presumably power, briefly gushing black smoke from its funnels, getting its lights back, and then hitting the main bridge support. The bridge collapsed onto the bow of the ship in less than ten seconds.

What it means for supply chain: ports

The Port of Baltimore is closed, with 40+ vessels stuck inside the fallen bridge, and all inbound vessels being rerouted. It is not known how long clearing the passage will take. 

In terms of volume, Baltimore is not a vital US port. It ranks seventeenth in total tonnage, tenth in dry bulk tonnage, and fifteenth in TEU volume. Alternative east coast ports include New York, Savannah, and Virginia, all of which are larger.

Baltimore is, however, a key port for roll-on/roll-off shipments, including cars, trucks, and farm equipment. This will create problems for manufacturers, like Deere and Caterpillar, moving product overseas. These are finished goods, though, which means ripple effects seen in Europe when parts held up by Red Sea attacks forced some stoppages at Tesla and Volvo assembly plants won’t be an issue this time. Also, auto dealerships in the eastern US may wait longer for imported vehicles to arrive, but again, these are finished goods en route to lots full of inventory.

From this perspective, the impact will be minor compared to the post-Covid crisis that put supply chains on our collective radar.

What it means for supply chain: road

The accident also knocks out a major interstate highway for years, if not forever. That sounds terrible, but the bridge only carries 11 million vehicles per year compared to parallel north-south harbor tunnel routes, which, combined, carry almost 72 million vehicles each year. It is true that hazmat transport is prohibited in these tunnels, but the western loop of the Baltimore beltway is an option, adding about 15 miles to the Patapsco River crossing. Again, the impact on supply chains should be relatively minor.

Read also: Emergency Shipping Route Opens Following Baltimore Bridge Collapse

What it means for supply chain: infrastructure

As for the argument that our infrastructure is “crumbling” and supply chains are therefore “fragile,” the Key Bridge collapse is more symbolic than symptomatic. It was inspected in 2023, passing over a dozen specific metrics of structural integrity tests according to the US DOT’s National Bridge Elements Health Index. But it should be no surprise to anyone who saw the footage that the bridge couldn’t handle a direct hit from a container ship – our supply chain infrastructure does need more investment, especially our outdated seaports, but the collapse of this bridge is not proof of that idea. 

The good news: resilience and vigilance are working

Celebrated, but disproportionately to the initial hysteria about “snarled supply chains,” was the fact that the ship signaled distress and, within minutes, police had stopped traffic in both directions. Plus, technology-heavy logistics firms like project44 and Flexport, which track and help manage global shipping for big companies, are already rerouting shipments that were headed to Baltimore. 

Supply chain managers are currently handling problems in more important transportation choke points, including the Suez Canal and Panama Canal. More worrying still is the threat of a strike at all US East Coast ports. 

Transportation and logistics leaders have significantly improved resilience since the Covid crisis, meaning that most are already well into contingency plans in response to thisdisruption.

The bad news: news

Buttigieg isn’t crazy to warn of supply chain impacts arising from the Baltimore bridge tragedy, and televised news clearly can’t resist featuring the story. But the urge to overhype the supply chain angle risks losing public trust and fanning the flames of inflation.

Let’s not cry wolf.

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Regulatory Confusion Surrounding Tugboats and the Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse

It has been just over one week since the disastrous Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse. Investigators are making progress along multiple fronts, and the role, or lack thereof, of tugboats is front and center. 

According to tracking data from, the Dali cargo ship was unaccompanied when it crashed into the Key Bridge on the morning of March 26. Tugboats operated by McAllister Towing and Transportation aided the Dali out of the dock for roughly 30 minutes before leaving the vessel at 1:09 a.m. At roughly 1:25 a.m., the ship began to veer right, departing the main channel and striking the bridge four minutes and 23 seconds later. 

It is common for tugboats to accompany vessels the size of the Dali out of the ship’s berth and then disengage once they reach the channel. Tugboat regulations vary, and ship owners pay for their services. In the case of the Key Bridge, tugboats peeling off before the vessel reaches the bridge are common. But the question with the Dali remains – had the tugboats escorted the ship to the bridge, what would the likelihood of a collision have been?

The Patapsco River is a vital national trade artery. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is tasked with protecting the US transportation systems sector from risks and threats. While CISA designates the Department of Transportation and the Department of Homeland Security as transportation co-sector risk management agencies, the issue of tugboat regulation and where responsibility lies remains unclear. 

The US Coast Guard is another entity responsible for risks and threats, as is the Joint Information Center (JIC), an investigative arm involving the US Customs and Border Patrol and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees. Yet, to date, CISA, the US Coast Guard, and the JIC have yet to publically accept regulatory responsibility as it relates to tugboat protocol. 

The Coast Guard can require tugboat escorts for certain vessels if they are deemed hazardous to navigation. The same applies in the event of precarious weather conditions. However, there appears to be an accountability gap where regulatory ownership is unclear.

The economic fallout from the collision is daunting. The Port of Baltimore generates roughly $3.3 billion a year, and 31,000 vehicles use the bridge daily. Had the tugboats been purposely called off, the captain’s log should reflect that.  

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Baltimore Bridge Collision Sparks Surge in Container Price

Container Traders Anticipate Rise In Disruptions and increase in container prices in the Wake of Baltimore Bridge Collision

  • US ports prepare for rising traffic amid growing freight volumes.
  • xCPSI rises significantly from 26 to 61 points in one week, most supply chain professionals surveyed expect container price hikes in the coming weeks. 
  • Container traders in the US to prepare for potential disruptions, higher container prices and increased demand in the market

In the aftermath of the Baltimore bridge collision, supply chain professionals are anticipating price hikes, as indicated by a significant rise in sentiment for container price increases. A rebound of freight volumes into the US this year, coupled with the bridge incident and the ongoing challenges in the Red Sea as well as the Panama Canal is expected to strain key US ports in the short term. This is expected to lead to increased congestion, additional logistical and operational complexities, and short to midterm price increases.

The Container xChange’s Container Price Sentiment Index (xCPSI) unexpectedly surged from 26 to 61 points between March 18, 2024, and March 29, 2024. This marked increase suggests that the industry is anticipating container prices to increase in the coming weeks—while the suddenness of the index’s move highlights rising uncertainty in the market. 

“The sharp rise in sentiment could be linked to ongoing market volatility, the perceived emergency on the US East Coast due to the Baltimore collision, and the resulting sustained pressure on the market.” commented Christian Roeloffs, cofounder and CEO of Container xChange. 

We have received feedback from industry sources indicating an anticipated increase in container prices in the upcoming days/weeks, with projections ranging from 50-100 USD per TEU. This information suggests that customers looking to order new build units may encounter higher unit prices compared to previous weeks. One manufacturer, whom we used as a source in previous reports, anonymously shared this insight.

Additionally, another customer from Europe, who prefers to remain anonymous, is stocking up on various types of units in anticipation of future price hikes. 

Based on these insights, it appears that the market is poised for price increases in the coming weeks.

Update on the Baltimore Incident

As of 29th March 2024, the Key Bridge Response 2024 Unified Command* reported that 56 total containers loaded on the vessel contained hazardous materials, with 14 impacted. These 14 containers were assessed by an industrial hygienist for potential hazards. The Unified Command and Joint Information Center were established in Baltimore on 26th March 2024 to coordinate the response and disseminate information regarding the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse.

In the meantime, The Captain of the Port (COTP) Baltimore has established a temporary alternate channel on the northeast side of the main channel in the vicinity of the Francis Scott Key Bridge for commercially essential vessels, according to the official statement by Mayor Brandon M. Scott, on Sunday, 31st March 2024. 

The temporary channel will be marked with government lighted aids to navigation and will have a controlling depth of 11 feet, a 264-foot horizontal clearance, and vertical clearance 96 feet. The Unified Command is working to establish a second, temporary alternate channel on the southwest side of the main channel. This second channel will allow for deeper draft vessels with an anticipated draft restriction of 15 to 16 feet.

Container vessels will need to adjust their routes to utilize this temporary channel, which has specific dimensions and markings to ensure safe passage. This temporary solution will enable commercially essential vessels, including container ships, to continue their operations with minimal disruption despite the bridge collapse.

Shippers to brace for cost escalations and mounting responsibilities

Furthermore, shippers whose routes include Baltimore are expected to face significant challenges in the coming days. One major issue is the increased shipping costs and associated expenses due to rerouting, which are expected to rise. Additionally, the responsibility for picking up cargo at diverted ports has been shifted to the shippers, as MSC and several other ocean carriers have informed their clients. This shift requires shippers to coordinate closely with freight forwarders, trucking companies, and other logistics providers to ensure safe and efficient transportation of the cargo to its final destination.

“In the short term, the bridge collapse will lead to localized disruptions in container availability and transportation. The incident has also led to increased delivery times and fuel costs which could indirectly impact container prices and leasing rates in the coming times.” added Roeloffs. 

US ports under pressure? 

Container xChange’s analysis of loaded imports at the top 10 ports in the US reveals a significant increase in container throughput compared to the previous year. This indicates improved port utilization and suggests a strong start to the year in terms of freight demand and activity.

Ports such as the Port of Long Beach, LA, and Port of Vancouver have shown significant increases in loaded inbound TEUs, indicating strong growth in maritime freight traffic.

Now with these diversions, it remains to be seen how well the ports will handle the rise in traffic. As more cargo gets diverted to these ports, we will see an increased throughput pressure on these ports. This could lead to higher congestion and longer wait times for vessels, trucks, and trains at the port. 

  Given this situation, we would expect container prices at these ports to rise in the month of April and beyond, depending on the intensity of the diversions and its aftermath.  

The aftermaths of the Baltimore collision are being felt nationwide. The New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy directed their ports Thursday, 28th March 2024, to accept additional cargo to alleviate supply chain pressures from the shutdown in Baltimore. Being the only water route into and out of the port, the shipping channel will be closed for weeks, at a minimum, and possibly for months. 

“By February 2024, most US ports experienced a resurgence in loaded cargo imports compared to the same period last year (Jan-Feb volumes in 2023). While volumes have rebounded and port operations have improved, concerns linger due to the ongoing Red Sea crisis and the recent Baltimore bridge collision, which is expected to cause months-long disruptions. This is likely to increase pressure on nearby ports with similar capabilities and may lead shippers and carriers to consider diverting entirely to the West Coast, potentially resulting in additional challenges or even closures for carriers,” commented Christian Roeloffs, co-founder, and CEO of Container xChange, an online global container logistics platform. 

“As we move forward, we anticipate increased wait times and processing fees at the ports where traffic is diverted in the US. The most striking impact, nonetheless, is on the regional supply chain in Baltimore, where the effects on life, the economy, and businesses are severe,” Roeloffs emphasized.


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Emergency Shipping Route Opens Following Baltimore Bridge Collapse

In the aftermath of the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, authorities have swiftly established a temporary shipping pathway to mitigate disruptions to maritime traffic. The bridge collapsed after being struck by the Dali containership, prompting a halt in ship travel into and out of the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore announced the creation of a temporary channel near the collapsed bridge during a press conference on April 1st. This alternate route, situated to the northeast of the bridge wreckage, aims to facilitate the movement of vessels around the affected area, particularly for essential commercial purposes.

The construction of the temporary channel was overseen by the Captain of the Port (COPT) and is designated for use by commercially essential vessels. The first vessel to utilize this alternate pathway was the tugboat Crystal Coast, towing a fuel barge, on April 2nd, marking a significant milestone in the recovery efforts.

President Joe Biden pledged the full support of the US government in reopening the port and reconstructing the bridge promptly after the incident. US Coast Guard Captain David O’Connell emphasized the importance of the alternate route in ensuring the resumption of marine traffic into Baltimore.

Plans are underway to establish additional channels, including a second southwest route and a third channel to accommodate deeper vessels navigating the area. Meanwhile, international support for the investigation into the bridge collapse has been initiated, with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore collaborating with Synergy Marine Pte Ltd to assist the US Coast Guard’s inquiry.

Tragically, the recovery operation also uncovered two bodies from the waters beneath the Francis Scott Key Bridge, underscoring the severity of the incident and the urgent need for comprehensive measures to address the aftermath.