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Virginia and Baltimore Companies Unite to Solve Shipping Challenges Post-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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“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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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 marinetraffic.com, 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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Contaminated Fuel Speculation and the Insurance Fall-Out from the Baltimore Bridge Crash 

One of the factors investigators are looking into surrounding the Dali cargo ship crash into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore is “dirty fuel.” An officer aboard the ship recounted the presence of a heavy smell of burning fuel in the engine room after one of the engines shut down. Dirty or contaminated fuel can create clogging issues with a vessel’s principal power generators.  

Ships use different fuels depending on the points of their cruise. A relatively light diesel fuel is standard while vessels are inside a port, and if contaminated, algae, dirt, and water are the most common culprits. 

The Dali is a Panamax-type ship built in 2015 by Hyundai Heavy Industries. The vessel has a capacity for 10,000 containers and is one of thousands that frequent the Suez and Panama Canals. The Dali underwent more than 20 port state control inspections, and according to the international shipping database Equasis, none of the inspections resulted in the ship’s detention. 

The Singapore-based Synergy Marine Group operated the Dali on the Tuesday, March 26th crash. The ship was hauling cargo for A.P. Moller-Maersk and heading for Sri Lanka. The Dali was moving at an industry-standard speed of roughly 9.2 mph, and weather conditions were stable. 

Insurance analysts expect the bridge collapse to result in multiple multibillion-dollar insurance claims. Disruption to businesses that rely on the port to the bridge itself will require coverage, and the crash victims will likely raise claims against the ship operator. 

The entities that will bear the bulk of the insured cost are the reinsurers, who take on risks sold by the insurers. Britannia P&I Club is the Dali’s insurer, and it is common for specialized marine insurers to have reinsurance coverage of approximately $3.1 billion for vessels like the Dali.

For a point of comparison, thirty-two people perished in 2012 when the cruise ship Costa Concordia sank near an Italian island. Insurers paid over $2 billion to claimants. Meanwhile, in 2022, the car carrier Felicity Ace, caught fire and sank, resulting in approximately $500 million being disbursed under insurance policies.