Fourth channel allows deep-draft ships to depart Baltimore

(BALTIMORE) — The captain of the port on Thursday established a fourth channel, the Fort McHenry Limited Access Channel, which will run the length of the northeast side of the federal channel at the Francis Scott Key Bridge and provide additional access to commercially essential traffic. The bridge collapsed on March 26 after being hit by the containership Dali.

The limited access deep-draft channel has a controlling depth of a minimum of 35 feet, a 300-foot horizontal clearance, and a vertical clearance of 214 feet. Additional restrictions for transits are outlined in MSIB 043-24, including weather limitations which may impact the transit window.

Starting Monday, April 29, operations to remove Dali will require suspension of transits through the Fort McHenry Limited Access Channel. Once deemed safe, the channel will reopen for commercial traffic.

The vehicle carrier Carmen transits the limited access deep-draft channel Thursday on the Patapsco River in Balitmore. Key Bridge Response 2024 Unified Command photo

“We’re working to strike a balance between enabling temporary access to support commercial activity and undertaking necessary measures to fully reopen the Fort McHenry Channel,” said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. David O’Connell, captain of the port and federal on-scene coordinator, Key Bridge Response 2024. “This limited access deep-draft channel will provide a window for five of the deep-draft vessels currently unable to depart the port as well as some smaller deep-draft vessels to transit. Meanwhile, the Unified Command personnel continue to work full speed ahead to safely and efficiently finish operations.”

The current 2,000-yard safety zone around the Francis Scott Key Bridge remains in effect and is intended to protect personnel, vessels, and the marine environment. No vessel or person will be permitted to enter the safety zone without obtaining permission from the captain of the port or a designated representative.


By Professional Mariner Staff