How Two Shallow Draft Channels Open Port Baltimore

April 8, 2024
One channel is 11 feet deep, the other 14 feet.

Two shallow-draft shipping channels are providing limited access in and out of the Port of Baltimore as the main waterway is gradually cleared of bridge debris, reports AASHTO Journal.

“The channel depths for the northern alternate channel are 11 feet and for the southern alternate channel, they’re 14 feet,” said Shannon Gilreath, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral, in a press conference on April 3. “The commercial vessels that have transited through there are barges … and the tugs that push them, inbound and outbound from the port of Baltimore. So those two alternate channels are beginning to make a difference. There’s much more work to go, but those are again, small steps in a long marathon.”

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Colonel Estee Pinchasin, the commander of the Baltimore District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said during the press conference that cargo containers are currently being removed from the ship that hit the bridge for storage at Sparrows Point.

“We’re still planning on removing that 3,000- to 4,000-ton span that’s resting on top of and leaning up against the vessel,” she said.

“And we’re also planning to clear wreckage from the far side of the channel,” she said. “What I mean by that is the far side away from where the vessel is grounded into the channel side … to allow us for some deeper [channel] traffic. So, as we get deeper into the channel on that far side and clear deeper wreckage from the far side of the channel, we’re hoping to be able to traffic larger vessels through.”

Maryland Governor Wes Moore (D) described the bridge wreckage blocking the main access channel inside the Patapsco River as “absolutely staggering” and covers approximately a 700-foot area of the port’s 50-foot-deep main waterway.

“When you’re looking at how mangled this wreckage is, how collapsed this wreckage is, it begins to highlight the level and the challenge that we have in front of us when it comes to this recovery mission and to being able to open up these elements of the ports,” he said.

Gov. Moore noted that he had been briefed by the Maryland Department of the Environment, which has performed water sampling upriver and downriver from the collapsed site.

“Their samples have revealed that there are no contaminants, including fuel, and the continued examination and the continued operations of being able to test the water will continue throughout,” he said.

Source: American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials