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Port of Baltimore could reopen as soon as May, expert says

New York CNN  —  Demolition workers could open a channel for ships to move in and out of the Port of Baltimore as soon as one month after required equipment arrives on scene, according to an expert in the field familiar with ongoing discussions. The expert, who spoke to CNN on condition that his name not be used, said it will likely take longer than that to remove all the debris from the Francis Scott Key Bridge that fell into the Patapsco River after one of the pillars holding up the bridge was rammed by the container ship Dali early Tuesday morning. However, the expert said clearing the 1,200-foot area between the two pillars that supported the bridge’s main span will be enough to reopen the port to traffic. That’s because the large cargo and passenger ships that call on the port need to stay in a channel where the Pataspco is the necessary 50 foot depth. That channel is in the middle of that 1,200-foot span. A heavy lift crane vessel will be on site at the Port of Baltimore later Thursday, White House director of intergovernmental affairs Tom Perez said in an interview on MSNBC. But other equipment will also be needed there, and contracts will need to be signed before demolition work can begin. The first job at the site will be removing the bridge’s remains that landed on the bow of the ship, and then getting the ship itself removed, according to the expert who spoke with CNN. He said removing the ship without it sinking could prove difficult in itself because its bow was impaled when it hit the support column. The expert said pipelines near the bridge could make removing the bridge debris more challenging. A large water line and a natural gas line both traverse the river bottom near where the bridge once stood. The two lines run underneath the power lines that run parallel to where the bridge was, as close as about 200 feet from the former bridge deck. A view of the Dali cargo vessel which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., March 26, 2024. Julia Nikhinson/Reuters Related article Cars, sugar and cruises: How the Port of Baltimore closure could hurt the economy How soon the channel can reopen will depend on a number of factors that experts don’t know yet because they are still examining the site. It will depend on the expertise of the firms brought in to conduct the demolition. According to the Maryland state government, the port supports 15,330 direct jobs and 139,180 jobs in related services. Those are jobs are on land, and does not include crews of the various ships that call on the port. It is the nation’s largest destination for ocean shipments of cars and trucks and the 9th largest cargo port in the United States. But no ships can call on the port until the channel is reopened. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that reopening the port is a priority. “We’re going to do everything we can to protect those jobs and help those workers,” he said. There is also a problem of lost income for ships stuck in the port that are unable to leave. The ships that remain at the port are three bulk carriers, one vehicles carrier, two general cargo ships, one oil/chemical tanker, and three logistics naval vessels, according to a count from the Port of Baltimore.