The Baltimore Key Bridge Collapse

MARYLAND, UNITED STATES – MARCH 26: An aerial view of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge after a collision with a cargo ship in Baltimore, Maryland, United States on March 26, 2024. According to the Maryland Transportation Authority (MTA), all lanes are closed in both directions, and traffic is being diverted. (Photo by Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu via Getty Images)

At the suggestion of Keith Harbaugh, here’s a post on the collapse of the Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore. Keith provided a YouTube playlist with several good videos. I’ve watched the 50 minute video of Sal Mercogliano and John Konrad, two experts in their respective fields of maritime history and maritime shipping, discussing the issues and answering questions. That alone is well worth watching.

Keith Harbaugh’s playlist:

The Mercogliano and Konrad discussion:

On the few times I’ve driven over the Key bridge, I noted that it was a spindly looking bridge for something that large and that high. And the bridge supports seemed to rise out of the water largely unprotected by massive pilings or riprap islands. This probably isn’t unusual for bridges, but I thought it was a major vulnerability. John Konrad mentioned this lack of protective islands around the bridge supports which could have grounded the ship before it hit the supports. Maybe the design of the rebuilt bridge and other bridges will take heed of this. I’m sure there are other procedural measures that can and will be implemented.

As someone mentioned, thank God this didn’t happen during rush hour. The casualties would have been in the hundreds. The mayday issued by the pilots on the ship and the quick reaction of police in the area shut the bridge traffic down within 90 seconds.   

Until the channel is cleared, the Port of Baltimore is out of commission. The supply chain in this region is obviously greatly affected. Rerouting of traffic was already underway by first light yesterday. I wonder if this affects LNG shipments to Europe? It will definitely affect auto and auto parts supplies in the US.  


This entry was posted in Current Affairs, The economy, TTG. Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to The Baltimore Key Bridge Collapse

  1. jim.. says:

    I Have Watched The Videos many Times…Photos To….Very Rare Event..That Issues Raise Questions…Bad Timing For US…Import/Export Capability’s..

    The Ship Moved Fast it Seemed…Power off..Propulsion For Steering Off…Fast Turn From
    Right To Left Directly Close to Footing..Thrusters…?? Thought it Took Alot to Turn These Ships..??

    And…I Have Never Seen Any Cargo Ship Piled That High On Its Deck..Clear up To The Bridge Windows…How Could the Pilots See Anything…??

    In Many Videos of Its Approach to the Brige At Nite..You See The Lights of Cars Going By…They Stop;;;A White Object Flys just Above The Bridge Right To Left..And Just Above This Ship…Then The Lights Go Out,,The Ship Turna Left Fast Rhen The Destruction..

    Reminds Me of The 9/11 Towers..Crashing…..Sad…Amazing Timing..

    • TTG says:


      Most videos of the approaching ship are sped up. The video I recommended said the films are sped up to eight times. The interviewer referred to a normal time video overlayed with communications. It will leave an entirely different impression of the collision.

      • jim.. says:

        Fast Videos…Yes..Saw Them many Times…TTG…Isuue..
        Ships Perfect Position For A Disaster….Issue..3 Minutes Start to Finish..Iss…Article Today..
        Straitstimes .com….Header…”Titanic Law Could Help Ship Owner limit Liability in Baltimore Bridge Collapse…”

        Not Only the Owner..Event the Dutch May get out of Liability..They Had No Crew Aboard…!

        Ghost Ship….Spooky

        • jim.. says:

          Update….on The Ship …All 22 Crew Members are from India….The Ship Was moving at 9 MPH…Considered Unusally Fast.. 56 Containers had Hazardous Material

          NTSB Says Some Data NOT recorded…

    • Laura Wilson says:

      I have seen many container ships piled that high…not terribly unusual.

  2. Stefan says:

    This bridge was built decades ago. The safety protocol used to build it back then would be obsolete these days. The ships these days are much bigger and carry much more cargo than they did that long ago. It just simply wasnt built to be able to fend off any impact with many of the modern day cargo ships.

    Good thing the accident happened in the middle of the night. Had it happened at 8am the death toll might have been in the hundreds, depending on traffic.

  3. elkern says:

    Good to see Sal M. linked here; I’ve recommended his Youtube channel (“What’s Going on with Shipping”) here before. Good guy, knows his stuff. He has an updated summary of what happened:

    I don’t recall any mention of LNG terminals (for export) there, but in the discussion with Konrad, Sal said that a *lot* of coal is exported from Baltimore. Today’s video shows that the main coal docks are inside the harbor, so they will be (completely?) shut down for a while. I would bet that the vast majority of LNG going to Europe (and elsewhere) from the USA is loaded in ports around the Gulf of Mexico (TX, LA, MS, AL), so that wouldn’t be directly affected.

    One of the things I like about Sal M is his insistence that the USA has made a huge mistake – across several decades – by allowing our Shipyards and Merchant Marine to decline just because foreign labor is cheaper. (The only thing I don’t like about him is trying to spell his last name; ergo “Sal M”). He also often talks about the sorry state of Federal management of our Ports and the associated infrastructure. (IIRC, there was some mention of that in the discussion with Konrad). BTW, don’t try to blame this on “Pete”; this neglect has been going on for *decades*.

  4. Mark Logan says:

    I suspect the luck was in having a work crew on that bridge. It means there would be off-duty cops hired by the construction company to manage traffic, or perhaps on-duty in that state. Either way, those guys were there and they had radios on their belts.

    The SF Bay bridge deflection system protected that bridge from a medium sized out of control tanker a few years ago, but that’s a new bridge. Yet the Golden Gate bridge built nearly a 100 years ago has a robust system to deflect ships. Just for fun, here’s what it looks like.

  5. Peter Williams says:

    A good article describing a bridge collapse and the subsequent consequences.
    I had a deployment before the collapse. and one immediately after, and I can assure you that the consequences were immense. It was not until the ferries from Sydney arrived that transport between East and West became vaguely reasonable.

  6. Fred says:

    The MV Dali was built ten years ago in South Korea. It is single screw with one main propulsion diesel engine, two main electric generators and two aux electric generations (all diesel). The key question should be why they lost main electric power, what happened to the automatic buss transfer to the other generator (assuming on the maneuvering watch exiting port they were both running) and why back-up power also failed. At 980 feet and 95,000 tons she wasn’t stopping on a dime. We are lucky it was also a bow on collision and not abeam, otherwise we’d have a sunken ship and a few thousand containers piled into the ship channel as well.

  7. scott s. says:

    I see speculation about dirty fuel. Putting on my old USN chief engineers hat, I have a hard time imagining changing the fuel system tank line up during what we call sea-and-anchor detail. Though I suppose there could be a problem that’s cumulative. It appears there was a loss of electrical load. No idea at this point if there was a prime mover failure, generator failure, or distribution system (switchboards and associated circuit breakers) failure. Typically in a “loss of load” situation the emergency generator is set to auto-start and power an emergency switchboard. Critical loads like steering would have “automatic bus transfers” that have 2 power sources and switch to the powered source.

    I found some on-line description of the main propulsion diesel model installed in this ship (MAN-B&W 9S90ME-C9.2 ). It is a typical slow-speed diesel. It’s only been recently that USN has gone to more diesel propulsion, but I don’t think even now we use slow speed at all since we require better maneuvering capability.

    In a loss of AC power scenario, there should be adequate engine-driven accessories to keep the propulsion diesel running. But the ME-C engine is fairly new design with electronically-controlled hydraulically-actuated system, replacing the mechanical and pneumo-mechanical elements of the MC engine.

    It’s becoming more common to install main propulsion shaft driven generators with frequency convertors for AC power. Don’t know if a shaft generator is fitted to this ship, but I would think you would want an aux diesel-generator carrying the load entering/leaving port.

    Unfortunately for the Coasties Curtis Bay yard is their overhaul yard and “inside” the bridge. Bethlehem Steel had a major shipbuilding yard at Sparrows Point outside the bridge but that’s been closed for a while now. Now it does business as “Tradeport Atlantic” but I think it is struggling.

  8. babelthuap says:

    Horrible things start happening in an empire when standards are lowered but nothing can be done about this problem. A people get rich, fat and lazy and nobody is held accountable anymore or wants the job. At some point to keep things moving somewhat requirements have to be lowered. Sad to see but unfortunately it’s only going to get worse. Good run but the era is ending. Stay out of cities and anywhere the feeble minded form into crowds is the best strategy.

    • Fred says:

      “…nothing can be done about this problem.”

      Thanks for the demoralization in the morning.

      • Jim says:

        Nothing Can Be Done ??)?

        We can still Vote Multi choice Ballots Federal State Local

        We can still Be good parents and Grandparents .. a lot of good
        Young people out there .. serving Society many ways! Service
        Not free loading.. our Grand daughter 42 years old worked on all our Navy Ships and Submarines her who adult life she worked so
        Much over time she bought two homes in San Diego and paid them off .. Nuclear Field .. she now is in a Cancer Center with Lieukemia but making good recovery… our other grand daughter also runs most maintenance operations in the Dry Docks They believe in America They know the enemy Duty Honor country …. Semper Fi

  9. Poul says:

    The biggest critique IMO is that there were no requirement for tug escorts until the ship was past the bridge.

    Yes, the use of tugs will cost a bit more for shipping companies but you would have had the two tug boats to save the day in case of an engine failure. Given that the bridge was very vulnerable such a requirement would have made sense to use.

  10. F&L says:

    Malek Dudakov mainly covers the US in his Ru Telegram channel. Just for amusement here’s his post on the bridge accident.
    In the United States, various theories are being circulated about the emergency in the port of Baltimore, where a container ship demolished a three-kilometer bridge. Law enforcement officials hastily dismissed the theory of a terrorist attack . They hope to place the blame on Indian sailors who allegedly used dirty diesel fuel.
    The American public suspects that there was a cyber attack that could have damaged the ship’s electronics. There could also be a cartel war for control of drug trafficking . The port of Baltimore handled $80 billion a year in trade, including machinery, sugar and coal. But unofficially, a large flow of drugs also passed through it.
    At the same time, the destroyed bridge was built in 1977. And it did not have protective mechanisms against crashing when colliding with a ship. The state never found the money to modernize it. And now Maryland is losing $15 million a day from traffic jams .
    In the United States, they fear the cascading effect of infrastructure disasters against the backdrop of the total deterioration of bridges, dams and power grids . Especially if there is someone behind it. Many are looking for parallels with the recent film from the Obamas – “ Leave the World Behind ”, where there was a similar situation.
    There, the tanker also lost control and crashed into the beach. And this was part of a larger attack on the US infrastructure, with the disabling of all telecommunications , which instantly plunged America into the chaos of civil war. And the fact that liberal elitists like Obama are already “warming up” Americans with such a scenario shows that its likelihood is not at all zero.

  11. F&L says:

    Never knew this before. Camels eat cactus without trouble. I’ve now come out firmly against banning TikTok. Is this off-topic? Not if you look at the bridge accident as an instance of strange culinary practice. Eating bridges.

  12. English Outsider says:

    I watched the video. Traffic was moving across the bridge, not in any quantity but fast and regularly. It looked a certainty that vehicles would be caught when the bridge collapsed.

    Then the traffic stopped. No lights on the bridge at all as the collision occurred. A happy chance, I thought at first. You get breaks in the traffic like that sometimes. Then it turned out the traffic had been stopped.

    Whoever it was who managed to react at such speed should be given a medal. That lighting fast reaction saved lives that would otherwise inevitably have been lost.

    • leith says:

      EO –

      One of the pilots on the MV Dali radioed the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) about the impending collision. And the MDTA already had officers on both sides of the bridge due to the work on the bridge that night and the lane closures. They shut the traffic down immediately.

    • Keith Harbaugh says:

      That gives me the opportunity to mention an anecdote.
      The Air Force Memorial in Washington
      Air Force Memorial
      was dedicated in 2006.
      I walked down to the dedication ceremony, to see the B-2 bomber which would make a flyover.
      There was a crowd waiting for the flyover and for President Bush to give his speech, and I was standing next to a 70-something white gentleman.
      We fell into conversation, and he told me he had been a general in the Army’s Corps of Engineers during the Vietnam War.
      Now, I had gone through Army ROTC in the 1960s, where the Army’s Corps of Engineers were described as people who built bridges and enabled river crossings (they certainly did that in WW2).
      So I, perhaps impolitely, asked “Oh, did you build bridges?”.
      He, quite properly, responded with some force to my lame sarcasm:
      We cleared landing zones.
      We cleared fields of fire at fire bases.”
      He went on to describe acts the CE took to protect convoys traveling through the jungles in VN.
      He used a French term to describe that, which I unfortunately cannot recall.

      In any case, I thank that gentleman for setting me straight on what the Corps of Engineers did in the Vietnam War.

      • d74 says:

        No bridges built in VietNam?

        Between 1905 and 1944, France built around 1,200 bridges in South Vietnam. They came in all sizes. Eiffel system bridges, practical and reliable. Between 1945 and 1952, the VietMinh destroyed around 1,000 bridges. The “arme du Génie” (your engineers) rebuilt around 500. Bailey system. Some were rebuilt several times. When the abutments weren’t destroyed, all they had to do was assemble the bridge on one bank and then push it over. Everything was done by hand. One section (around 25 men) was needed for a 25 m single-span bridge. When the abutments were destroyed, the work was much more extensive, requiring a troop for protection.

  13. John Minnerath says:

    Sal M had some good comments on how the investigation is proceeding today.
    The Incident Command System is already getting clogged by various agency heads and directors wanting to be at the top of the heap.
    The endless press briefings show a collapse of a structure of command to run this massive incident.

  14. Laura Wilson says:

    I think we (as a country) are fortunate that we have a young, smart and very ambitious Secretary of Transportation. Buttigieg has his reputation riding on his handling of this event. That bodes well for Baltimore! Someone at the end of their career or “in it” for the prestige would not be as nimble…we will see?!

    • Glenn Fisher says:

      I’m quite sure Pete’s vast experience as a small town mayor and the experience gained during his swift reaction (where he thought outside the box and took 2 months leave) to the East Palestine train derailment will save the day.

      Probably right after he’s finished chest feeding…

    • Fred says:


      Yes! Just as DeRay McKesson revitalized Baltimore’s schools the “young, smart and very ambitious Secretary of Transportation” will have this bridge problems fixed in no time.

  15. leith says:

    A 1,000-ton lifting capacity crane barge, the Chesapeake 1000, arrived on scene yesterday. Many more cranes, tugs and barges are en-route and should be there within five days. The big worry during recovery is that the MV Dali is sitting directly above a gas pipeline.

    Coordinating the effort is a Unified Command, which is composed of the Coast Guard, the Corps of Engineers, Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland Transportation Authority, Maryland State Police, along with Witt|O’Brien’s a consultancy firm that specializes in emergency and disaster response.

  16. Keith Harbaugh says:

    gCaptain (John Konrad) writes about the situation on Saturday, March 30:

    Sources from the Joint Incident Command Center told gCaptain that intense political interest, driven by extensive media coverage, is putting pressure on the command leadership and salvage masters to speed up the process.

    So far those pressures have only delayed the efforts but yesterday operations were paused indefinitely.
    The concern came during the due diligence process when salvage engineers discovered a high-pressure gas line near the wreckage.

    Meanwhile, in Ukraine … Who cares?
    Another $60 billion down the drain???
    Eight time zones away from America.
    What a waste.

  17. Keith Harbaugh says:

    Apparently there is an official website for information on how the recovery and reconstruction is going:

Comments are closed.