Baltimore bridge investigators focusing on Dali’s electrical system

(WASHINGTON) — Federal safety investigators are focusing on the electrical system of the containership Dali, which struck Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26, collapsing the span and plunging six construction workers to their deaths, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Investigators, who are still aboard the 984-foot boxship, are searching in the ship’s engine room for an explanation as to why the vessel apparently lost power while approaching the bridge, Jennifer Homendy, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), told lawmakers Wednesday on the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

She said investigators called upon the manufacturer of the ship’s engine, Hyundai, to assist investigators in downloading data from the engine room related to the electrical power system and circuit breakers.

A collapsed portion of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore lies across the bow of the containership Dali on March 28. Key Bridge Response 2024 Unified Command photo

“We have had the manufacturer of equipment in the engine room to look closely at the electrical power system. We’re continuing to look at that,” Homendy said. “We’ve asked for additional assistance from the manufacturer, who returned from overseas this week with experts to look at the circuit breakers.”

Investigators believe whatever caused the power aboard Dali, which weighed about 112,000 tons loaded when it struck the bridge, to flicker on and off as it approached the bridge also contributed to its loss of control, Homendy said.

“Of course, that is preliminary,” she cautioned. “It can take different roads, different paths, as we continue this investigation. It’s very early.”

Homendy appeared before the Senate committee Wednesday for a confirmation hearing for a five-year term as chairwoman of the board, which she has been leading since August 2021. After Homendy offered an opening statement, several senators asked her questions about the March 26 bridge collapse in Baltimore.

Authorities have been working to clear remnants of the bridge from the main channel to allow ships to pass, with engineers estimating that effort will take until the end of May. Rebuilding the bridge is expected to take years.

Investigators have interviewed several people who were aboard the Dali when it struck the bridge, including the Maryland pilot and pilot apprentice who boarded the ship to guide it out of the harbor, Homendy said.

By Professional Mariner Staff