A carefully planned controlled precision-cut demolition appears to have been successful in dislodging a 600-ton section of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge from the bow of the M/V Dali, a significant step in the nearly two-month long effort to clear hundreds of tons of wreckage in Baltimore harbor resulting from the vessel’s March 26 collision with a support pylon that killed six construction workers.

Twice delayed over the preceding weekend due to high winds and the threat of lightning, the simultaneous detonation of multiple small charges installed on portions of the estimated 500-ft-long steel truss occurred just after 5:00 pm on May 13. Within seconds, severed smaller sections of the span fell into the water away from the Dali as planned. 

According to the multiagency unified command overseeing the collapse recovery effort, a protective water curtain placed between the truss section and more than 4,000 containers provided a safeguard against fire. Firefighting teams were also staged nearby as a precautionary measure, while the Dali’s 21 crew members sheltered in place below decks in the aft portion of the ship. 

U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Shannon Gilreath told a press briefing earlier in the day that the crew has remained on board since the collapse to keep the vessel safe and operational. He added that their familiarity with the vessel would be critical to contain any fires caused by the demolition.

“They are the best responders aboard the ship themselves,” Adm. Gilreath said.

Following a post-demolition survey of the Dali and the channel to ensure no navigation obstructions remain from the demolition, unified command says the vessel will be refloated in approximately two days and towed back to the Port of Baltimore with the assistance of tugboats. This will enable the team of salvors to remove the remaining structural wreckage using hydraulic grabber cranes and other equipment. 

Col. Estee Pinchasin, commander of the Corps’ Baltimore District, told the press conference that unified command remains on track toward its goal to have the deep draft channel reopened to normal maritime traffic by the end of May.

“We’re continuing the salvage operations in that same methodical and disciplined safe way that we’ve been removing wreckage all along, except the Dali won’t be at berth, and safely out of the way,” Col. Pinchasin said.