Preliminary report into Baltimore bridge disaster pinpoints power outages on the Dali containership

On May 14, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a preliminary investigation report on the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Md.

On March 26, 2024, about 0129 eastern daylight time, the 947-foot-long Singapore-flagged cargo vessel (containership) Dali was transiting out of Baltimore Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland, when it experienced a loss of electrical power and propulsion and struck the southern pier supporting the central truss spans of the Francis Scott Key Bridge (Key Bridge).

A portion of the bridge subsequently collapsed into the river, and portions of the deck and the truss spans collapsed onto the vessel’s forward deck. A seven-person road maintenance crew employed by Brawner Builders—which was contracted by the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA)—and one inspector employed by Eborn Enterprises, Inc., a subconsultant to the MDTA, were on the bridge when the vessel struck it. The inspector escaped unharmed, and one of the construction crewmembers survived with serious injuries. The bodies of the six fatally injured construction crewmembers have been recovered. One of the 23 persons aboard the Dali was injured.

Federal investigators say the Dali suffered a power outage about 10 hours before it left Baltimore Harbor, and again in the early morning hours of March 26, shortly before it struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Investigators stated that the first outage was the result of a crew mishandling during maintenance, when one of the vessel’s crew members mistakenly closed an exhaust damper while performing maintenance, causing one of the vessel’s diesel engines to stall. Shortly after leaving Baltimore Harbor, the Dali struck a key pillar of the bridge due to a second power outage that caused it to lose steering ability and power, as evidenced in video footage.

In its investigation report, the NTSB noted that the fatal power outage occurred about four minutes before the bridge collision, when a circuit breaker tripped unexpectedly, knocking out all lighting and most equipment on board, while the container ship was 1 km from the bridge. Subsequently, the crew of the container ship restored power to the ship, but the power failure occurred again about 320 meters from the bridge, causing all three steering devices to stop operating. The crew could not move the rudder to steer.

The NTSB will continue to evaluate the design and operation of the Dali’s electrical distribution system, including circuit breakers. Once all of the ship’s debris has been removed and transferred to an offshore facility, the damage to the ship will continue to be examined.

The ongoing removal of the wreckage is so massive that it has the potential to be the largest marine insurance claim in history.

According to the information, “Dali” was built by HD Hyundai Heavy Industries (formerly Hyundai Heavy Industries) Ulsan Shipyard in 2015 and delivered to the shipowner, classed by ClassNK. It is 300 meters long and 48 meters wide with a capacity of 9,962 TEU, including 1,400 reefer slots.

Notably,it is equipped with B&W 9S90ME-C9 main engines and HIMSEN 9H32/40HD auxiliary engines for power generation, also manufactured by HD Hyundai Heavy Industries. “HD Hyundai Marine Solutions, a subsidiary of the HD Hyundai Group, has warranty obligations for the Dali, based on the Group’s engine technology.

Yangzijiang Shipbuilding

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