Army, Navy Help to Open Small Channel in Baltimore as Bridge Salvage Effort Promises to Grow

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April 1, 2024
Demolition crews cut the top portion of collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge

The Army and Navy have played a key role in helping to reopen a narrow channel at the site of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore after a merchant vessel lost power and slammed into the bridge, collapsing it on March 26.

An official with the joint task force behind the cleanup and salvage effort confirmed to Military.com that the team, composed of Army, Navy and Coast Guard assets, has created a small channel that is open to “commercial, essential vessels.”

“Those are going to be just the vessels that are working directly hand-in-hand with just the salvage operations that are going on,” the official added.

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Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters Monday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed an underwater survey “that needed to take place prior to removing the wreckage” and “highly trained demolition crews started cutting the top portion of the north side of the collapsed bridge on Saturday.”

Singh also said that “multiple Navy barges are on site assisting in the efforts.”

Officials responsible for the cleanup effort said that the temporary channel was planned to have “a controlling depth of 11 feet, a 264-foot horizontal clearance, and vertical clearance 96 feet,” in a statement Sunday.

A Navy statement released Friday said that it sent the Chesapeake, a 1,000-ton lift capacity derrick barge; the Ferrell, a 200-ton lift capacity revolving crane barge; and the Oyster Bay, a 150-ton lift capacity crane barge, to Baltimore Harbor, and an additional 400-ton lift capacity barge is on track to arrive “early next week.”

Navy officials confirmed to Military.com that three civilian officials from the Navy’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving are deployed to the area, while Singh said that “over 1,100 engineering, construction, contracting and ops specialists are available” from the Army Corps of Engineers for the effort.

Officials at the Pentagon broadly described the current breakdown between the two services as the Army providing the manpower for the operation while the Navy is offering equipment and expertise.

Singh also suggested the military’s presence in the area may grow, noting that “additional vessels, equipment and personnel are expected to arrive over the coming days.”

“We stand ready to assist in further efforts to provide immediate response, reopen the port, rebuild the bridge and support the people of Baltimore,” she added.

The Navy’s statement noted that it plans to send “an additional 12 crane and support vessels to include tugs, survey, dive and crew boats” to the area in the coming days and said many of those assets “are in the mobilization process.”

Related: 1,100 Army Corps of Engineers Personnel to Help Clear Debris in Baltimore Bridge Collapse

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