Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse Is An Economic Disaster

Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse Is An Economic Disaster

Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse Is An Economic Disaster

The news and videos out this morning of the cargo ship Dali ramming into the Francis Scott Key Bridge and causing it to collapse is like a movie, only it’s all too real. 

A massive cargo ship crashed into a major bridge in the Baltimore harbor early Tuesday morning, leading to a near-total collapse of the span and sending vehicles plunging into the frigid water below.

A search-and-rescue effort is underway, with divers and emergency personnel desperately combing the area for people believed to have fallen from the collapsing bridge, officials said.

The videos themselves, many of which are on X, show clearly a ship in significant power failure. 

Search and rescue is underway trying to get to those who were driving across when the bridge collapsed, sending them into the water. Part of the issue is that rescue personnel can’t get too close to the cargo ship because of cargo containers dangling over the water off of parts of the bridge. 

Baltimore Fire Chief James Wallace reported that the bridge is fully collapsed and rescue efforts are underway. 

Two people were rescued from the water with one person seriously injured. Multiple agencies are conducting search and rescue efforts by air and water, which are expected to last throughout the day, authorities said.

Wallace said that sonar has detected vehicles in the water, but the exact number cannot be confirmed. Initial reports were that “at least seven” vehicles fell into the water.

“We may be looking for upwards of seven individuals,” Wallace said early Tuesday. It was not clear if the two rescued were included in the seven cited by the fire chief.

“This is a dire emergency,” Kevin Cartwright, director of communications for the Baltimore Fire Department, told The Associated Press. “Our focus right now is trying to rescue and recover these people.”

Cartwright called the collapse a “developing mass casualty event.”

As many news outlets are reporting, per maritime regulations, a local pilot was bringing the cargo ship from the port to open water at the time the Dali lost all propulsion. And no, you cannot stop a fully loaded cargo ship weighing well over 100 thousand tons on a dime. 

This is an absolute tragedy, and it is an economic disaster on multiple levels. All traffic that used the bridge now has to be rerouted miles out of their way. That leads to longer commute times as well as extra time, fuel, and money for commercial transports that used the nearly 50 year old bridge. 

It’s also an economic disaster for the ports themselves. The map below, found at this link, provides a clear idea of how the collapse Francis Scott Key Bridge (I695), at the bottom right of the photo, impacts EVERY SINGLE port in Baltimore. 

There are several major cruise ship companies who use the Baltimore port, such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Meanwhile, when it comes to commercial cargo ships, the Baltimore port is one of the busiest ports on the Eastern seaboard. 

Now, due to the Dali hitting the bridge, and causing it to collapse, it’s all completely shut down.

For how long is anyone’s guess. Some are speculating a few months, others think it’ll be close to a year. Which is understandable given how much of the bridge infrastructure is now in the water. 

It is a miracle, given how much traffic the bridge sees at any given point of time, that more people weren’t hurt when the bridge collapsed. 

The container ship that smashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore sent a “mayday” warning that it had lost power before the disaster, officials said on Tuesday.

Quick-thinking authorities at the bridge were able to stop cars from crossing the 1.6-mile span, an act that “saved lives,” Mayor Brandon Scott said.

However, six people still remain missing after multiple vehicles plunged into the chilly waters of the Patapsco River as the bridge crumbled, its steel arches and roadway tumbling down.


The infrastructure and economic damage to a city that is already struggling cannot be overstated. The ports themselves have a significant amount of goods flow in and out. Including cars, trucks, heavy machinery, bulk foods, clothing, furniture, and much much more listed at the link below. 

Just rerouting all in-coming ships to other ports isn’t as easy as it sounds. Some ports don’t have the same capabilities as the Baltimore ports. So, there are economic and infrastructure issues in that regard that will have a wide-ranging impact beyond Baltimore itself. 

As rescue efforts continue, our prayers are with the families of those injured and missing. 

Feature Photo Credit: Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

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  • GWB says:

    I think Norfolk is going to be EXTRA busy for a while. And a lot of truckers driving over that Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel… another vulnerable spot.

    One thing I have from a co-worker this morning: A lot, possibly all, of those 7 they immediately knew about were workers doing construction on the bridge. (They might have been working on communications infrastructure.) Her husband was supposed to go out there this morning (replacing a bunch of fiber, IIRC).

    You think that those bridge supports would be made for taking the weight of a drifting ship. But we didn’t have these giant super-cargo vessels when that bridge was built. If they’re this out of control when drifting, maybe 1) we need to not let them off the tugboat until they’re in clear water, and 2) not even let them cruise our sea lanes. I know the “bigger means fewer trips” efficiency thing is considered vital to business, but maybe it’s not truly in our best interests, in the long run.

    (For those who don’t know the difference….
    Darleen mentions a pilot was on board. That’s a local guy who can steer the ship around known local issues until the boat gets out of the harbor/river area. He is delivered by a tugboat and taken off by a tugboat, usually. BUT, no tugboat may be guiding the ship with the pilot on board.)

    Oh, and I have to give props to the Port of Baltimore for a very properly focused and balanced announcement.

  • GWB says:

    On a practical note:
    If you are EVER in a situation where your car is going to plunge into the water, roll down your windows immediately and make sure you’re belted in.

    Being belted in will prevent you being thrown about (and into exploding air bags) when you strike the water, obviously. Having your windows down will allow you to escape. If you have your windows up and sealed, water will still get inside, but water pressure will prevent you opening the doors to escape. And the water will likely instantly destroy your electrical system and prevent your electric windows from operating. Unless you’re Superman. But then you can hold your breath forever, anyway. And, if the windows are all the way down, many people can manage to shimmy their way out the window without needing to open the door.

    This is also a good time to make sure you have a window breaker/seatbelt cutter tool handy. The window breaker is a spring-loaded punch that will shatter most all side window glass. You push until it pops. The seatbelt cutter is a hook knife (blade on the inside of the hook) for slicing through the belt when it’s tangled or the latch is not opening. (Search for “auto escape tool” someplace like Amazon.) (They can also be used to rescue someone trapped in their car, underwater or not, if you happen upon that situation.)

    • John Shepherd says:

      When you go into the water you wait for the vehicle to fill up. You watch the air bubbles to figure out which way is up. Once the pressure is equalized you can open the door. I have done the Helo dunker.

      • GWB says:

        The point about looking at the air bubbles is a good one.

        But. that’s a very long, panicky time (for anyone who has never actually done it in a controlled situation) waiting for the car to fill up. It’s better to get the windows started down and prepare to escape – particularly if you have other people to be concerned with. It might also minimize the distance you have to go to reach the surface.

        (And, getting the windows down reduces that long, panicky time significantly.)

        • Hate_me says:

          Not just concerns about time to the surface, there’s the need to hold your breath while the cab fills with enough icy water for the pressure to equalize even before you start swimming (knowing how to swim is a pretty good preparation, too – and useful in so many other situations).

          Additionally, ports like Baltimore are deep enough for the bends to become a concern if swimming from the bed.

          Waiting for the cab to flood may be necessary, but it greatly increases your chances if you can open the windows before hitting the water. A lot of good advice in these posts and, while the odds of finding oneself in such a situation are extremely slim, thinking about these “oh shit” circumstances is a good exercise for emergency preparation/management in general.

  • Mad Celt says:

    Who determined that ship was seaworthy?

    • GWB says:

      Well, stuff happens. Which is why maybe tugs should stay with the ship until he’s entirely out of the harbor. So, when stuff happens he’s got a wide open sea to drift in while he figures out who stole his distributor cap. And maybe those Newton’s-First-Law-monstrosities shouldn’t be allowed into ports without the ability to avoid this sort of thing if their engine dies.

      Engine casualties are somewhat common. Total engine casualties along with total electrical failure are not (of course, it looks like their emergency electricals tried to come online, but also failed).

      And, yes, I wonder if there wasn’t some “deferred maintenance” here. Along with get-home-itis. “Crap, we’re already behind. If we don’t make the next port in X days, they’ll dock our pay. Then we can’t afford booze. Just call the inspection good, and we’ll deal with it after we’re at sea.”

      (Not really arguing or agreeing. Just kinda thoughts you sparked. Your comment is a good question.)

      • RCPete says:

        I’ve seen a couple of reports that indicate that this wasn’t the first time that ship lost power “unexpectedly”. That, and a rotten job at pulling away from a pier in Amsterdam, putting the ship out of commission for a while, indicate that it’s not one of the better ships at sea.

        The usual suspects (A. Jones, A Tate) are convinced it was a cyber attack, and Lara Logan has a longish thread claiming it could have been deliberate. I’m trying to observe the 72 hour rule, and trying to piece the information together.

        I’m recalling how long it took for the circumstances to be clear in the FIU pedestrian bridge collapse. (Short answer, it took a few months. The designers phoned in the design, ignored warning signs, and blamed the contractor afterward. Not sure when the design company will be allowed to do federal/state projects again…)

        I did notice that somebody decided it was Trump’s fault. I’d have to borrow Sarah Hoyt’s shocked face on that one.

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  • Baltimore handles a tremendous amount of autos coming on ships, especially high line ones. They cannot simply redirect to closer ports like Newark, Delaware or Norfolk. They aren’t necessarily set up for that. The ones that are will be further away, which will increase costs for destination, and slow things down.

    And, can those other ports for all goods handle the extra traffic, plus, be able to distribute them to where they would normally go when coming into Baltimore? It’s easy to say to say “standby Savannah, Charleston, Norfolk” and more, but, not as easy to accomplish.

    Then all the people who will be laid off because there is no work which depends on the ports.

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