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Ship that caused Baltimore bridge collapse lost power twice before hitting pier, NTSB says

Two power outages triggered by the unexpected tripping of electrical circuit breakers caused A container ship slammed into Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge in March, knocking it into Baltimore Harbor and killing six people, federal investigators said in a preliminary report released Tuesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board report said the 947-foot, Singapore-flagged Dali suffered two power losses in the minutes before it collided with the bridge, leaving the ship without propulsion to help it sail. move away from one of the bridge pillars. After radioing for help, the crew dropped anchor in a last-ditch attempt to avoid a collision.

But it was too late: a member of the crew told investigators that by releasing a brake on the anchor, he had to escape from the collapsing bridge.

The NTSB is still investigating factors that may have played a role in the accident, including the design and operation of Dali’s power distribution system, which includes circuit breakers, the report said.

The report notes, however, that testing of the Dali’s fuel did not identify any quality issues. The NTSB also helps local officials decide whether protection of bridge piers in the harbor needs to be improved, the report said.

The Dali, which had been chartered by Danish shipping giant Maersk, was bound for Sri Lanka when it hit the bridge at 1:28 a.m. on March 26. Minutes before the accident, the ship’s lights went out, then came back on briefly, and black smoke was coming from the chimney – signs of power outages.

Seconds after impact, the bridge, considered a jewel of the city, collapsed into the depths of the Patapsco River, killing six members of the roadworks crew there, in what could to be the costliest maritime disaster in history. Two workers were rescued from the river. All 22 of the ship’s crew survived, along with two pilots who were helping the Dali navigate the port.

The disaster lasted only seconds, as seen in video showing cars and trucks on the bridge just before impact.

The NTSB preliminary report also found that the Dali suffered a power outage 10 hours before the collision during port maintenance. This power outage was triggered by a crew member’s error, according to the report.

The connection between the earlier power outage and the one that preceded the fatal crash remains under investigation, the NTSB said in its report.

The report notes that just before the Dali left port, its captain told a local pilot assigned to guide the ship out of port that the ship was in good working order.

Two tugboats assisted the Dali as it left the dock and entered the port, then moved away, according to the report. The pilot handed control of the vessel over to an apprentice and shortly thereafter the first power outage occurred. The senior pilot took over the controls.

A backup generator restored power to the Dali and the pilots called for help from a tugboat. The pilot ordered to drop anchor. The pilot’s dispatcher called the police and the Coast Guard.

A second power outage then hampered the Dali, and once again a generator restored power. But there was no propulsion to help with steering.

One of the pilots went on the marine radio to warn the other boats. Police ordered the bridge closed to traffic, leaving only the roadworks crew on the span.

The Dali then hit the bridge.

It is rare for ships of this size to lose power and even rarer for it to happen in a narrow channel near the piers of a major bridge. A last-minute rescue incident and rapid actions on the ground most likely prevented a much higher number of casualties.

A week-long search led to the recovery of the bodies of the six construction workers, the last of whom was found on May 7. The NTSB and FBI opened an investigation into the collapse. The City of Baltimore filed a lawsuit against the Dali’s owner, Grace Ocean Private Ltd., and its manager, Synergy Marine Pte Ltd., alleging negligence and sole liability for the collapse.

In earlier statements, Synergy and Grace Ocean expressed sympathy “to all those affected and their families” but declined to comment on the cause of the accident, pointing to unfinished investigations and ongoing legal proceedings. Maersk said in statements that its “thoughts were with all parties affected by the situation” but stressed that it did not own or operate the Dali. Maersk said it would conduct its own investigation.

On Monday, precision explosive charges dismantled a bridge span that had collapsed on the container ship, ultimately freeing the ship.

President Joe Biden promised the government would help rebuild the bridge as soon as possible because the Port of Baltimore is a major part of the Northeast economy and the busiest port for car imports and exports.

News Source : www.nbcnews.com
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