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There are 14 comments on POV: Was the Francis Scott Key Bridge Disaster Avoidable?

  1. the Port of Maryland does not require exiting and entering cargo ships to be escorted by tugboats, which could have towed the Dali to safety when it lost its steering ability. At a quick glance, it seems clear that having tug escorts or availability of tugs seems prudent, or adding additional support for vulnerable bridges.
    Simply unbelievable. No tugs to help clear the bridge.

  2. In everone’s rush to judgment, it would seem proper to have assist/escort the Dali through the Key bridge. And that may very well begin to happen. What becomes of any number of other bridges that are not located in or near a harbor equipet with assist/escort units. Take for instance The Bay bridge just 20 miles south. Ships transtit that passage at 17-20 knots. I do agree, collectively we need to do better at bridge protection/infrastructure.
    I believe…..WHEN THE OFFICIAL….. report is made public, we will find wind and curent had little to no affect. NOAA list’s curents in Baltimore harbor as “weak and variable”. What little wind that was prestnt was not enough to have that drastic of an effect, that quickly on a 40′ deep ship traveling at 8 knots. I also believe we will find, it ultimately was the actions if the Dali bridge team, in emergency reversing the ship that drove it inio the Key bridge. The action of reversing a single propeller driven vessel WILL impart a “wash” affect back into the ships hull causing the stern to thrust to the port. If the stern is thrusting to the port, (left) where do we think think the bow would be going Captain? That raises the question……had the Dali bridge team just left well enough alone, is it possible the Dali would have just drifted right through the Key bridge???

    1. Reversing port (left) stern will turn bow to the right toward the bridge support as the inertia from the weight of the boat continues forward into the pylon.

      Reversing starboard (right) i believe would have opposite effect.

      Beyond all this i believe they have bow thrusters to prevent such issues.

      Furthermore i am sure they have alarms going off when they are off their shipping route especially approaching bridges when caprains and his bridge crew should all be paying attention

      As far as wind and currents being too strong this boat would be clearly in a different position more parallel to the bridge than it was currently in after the impact.

      Power going off at the most critical time is like someone winning the mega lotto

      It would be very valuable to get some experienced captains in commercial freight their comments rather than opinions from talking heads on news channels

    2. Agree completely with this very important post. perhaps the three ??? are unwarranted. Consider that the Dali was in the channel and properly aligned before the electrical occurrence. Think of the mass and the speed. Think of the momentum and inertia. The Dali was diverted from her vector of trajectory. The likeliest cause was human activity such as dropping anchor and effectuating some mechanical steering.

      Human error is all around us. Engineering must provide for a large margin of shocking human error, which is sometimes enhanced by distraction, alcohol, or drugs. That bridge must not be repaired, it must be redesigned and rebuilt. As we learned in San Francisco, this takes a lot of time and money. And brain power.

  3. Very good article and analysis.

    Tug Boats should be required – in the future unfortunately – from point of docking (which they are in this port) past the Bridge to harbor entrance.

  4. What a great article! This clearly laid out all of the issues surrounding this tragedy in an interesting and succinct fashion. Thank you for the insight.

  5. I would agree wind and current had little or nothing to do with the incident. It will be easy enough to tell whether reversing that ship’s engine at high revs would cause the boat to turn the way it appears to turn in the video. It’s quite possible the ship has a single screw that rotates clockwise in forward. Kicking to port in reverse would be the expected result.

    A tug standing by near the bridge abutment could have pushed the hull in a way that would have steered it away from the bridge without actually being attached to the Dali. That’s a port policy matter. I’m guessing the statistical possibility of a ship losing steerage entering or leaving a commercial port is negligible. They don’t prepare for it because thousands of transits in and out of commercial harbors around the world have never produced this same result.

    Apparently there were two pilots onboard. It appears at least one of them helped alert law enforcement and saved lives. Two pilots onboard means you have at least three people on the bridge potentially acting as captain. A ship needs only one captain. I have no other facts to support this opinion but I could imagine in a moment of panic three people not used to working as team members could end up working at cross purposes.

  6. Certainly they would have been usinh all means available to avoid collision, to include thrusters. Thrusters are less then effective abive three knots. Dali was traveling 8 knots at the onset. I cant imagine she bleed off any more the three knots before the collision.

  7. There is no mention in the article of the lack of passive protection of the bridge pillars. Around the time of the construction of the Baltimore bridge a much smaller vessel hit and demolished the Sunset Skyway Bridge over Tampa bay, a bridge of similar design. As a result legislation was written that physical barriers to prevent contact between vessels and bridge supports should be included in all new bridge design but there was no requirement to fit protection retrospectively. Four small protective dolphins were installed but they would only stop a rowing boat.

  8. “Steerability” maneuverability of any vessel by its RUDDER ,Is dependent on a sufficient flow of water past the rudder.
    A vessel standing dead still, in dead still (slack) water, can not be maneuvered by rudder. (or not much)
    Similarly, a vessel in 4 knot current, even with engine
    Propulsion of 4 knots – is essentially the same.
    It is standing still,- relative to the water around it.
    Thus, there is no (Or little) flow of water past the rudder.
    Again, un-maneuverable.

    Regarding the tragedy in Baltimore,, I’d be interested
    To know: speed of the ebbing current; speed of the vessel
    Prior to engine loss; (speed thru the water AND
    speed over the ground ( made good).
    Then add to all that, prop wash generated against the rudder, forward or aft – as a result of last minute engine attempts. All assuming no thrusters, no tugs.

    Well, it’s a complex matter, & just part of the tragedy.
    Dark smoke in final moments could indeed indicate desperate last minute attempts with a re-started engine. AND/OR, it might Indicate water-contaminated fuel. Analysis of samples, from the ships bunker, and the supplier(s)’ will no doubt be made.

    NTSB & Coast Guard will get to the bottom of it all.
    The insurers will also be looking at every contributing factor. Sadly, none of that will bring back the lives lost.

    I am not a professional mariner, nor do I play one on TV.
    Just an amateur, who’s been caught in a current, with a suddenly dead engine. Luckily, I tossed out an anchor in time, and it held. A much small vessel, however.

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