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Cargo Ship Dali Power Blackout Caused By 2 Bad Breakers Before Key Bridge Crash

The National Transportation Safety Board on Monday said two electrical breakers on the Dali malfunctioned, causing a power loss before the ship crashed into the Key Bridge on March 26. The shipwreck, which killed six road workers, is pictured above

Posted on June 24, 2024

BALTIMORE — A new report said two malfunctioning electrical breakers caused the initial blackout aboard the Dali, the container ship that crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in March.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued the update Monday afternoon, roughly six weeks after its preliminary report unveiling the blackouts.

The NTSB update said electrical breakers HR1 and LR1 unexpectedly opened when the Dali was three ship lengths from the Key Bridge. This caused the first loss of electrical power to all shipboard lighting and most equipment.

The NTSB said it later found “an interruption in the control circuit for HR1’s undervoltage release.”

“An undervoltage release is a device that opens a breaker when voltage falls below predetermined thresholds,” the NTSB said.

The NTSB said it removed an electrical component called a terminal block, an insulated block that connects two or more wires, from the control circuit for HR1’s undervoltage release.

The NTSB additionally removed “two portions of control wiring associated with the terminal block.”

“We continue to examine the removed components at the NTSB Materials Laboratory,” the NTSB said in the update. “We will continue to evaluate the design and operation of the vessel’s electrical power distribution system, and investigate all aspects of the accident to determine the probable cause and identify potential safety recommendations.”

The final NTSB report could take one or two years to finish.

To read the full report, click here.

Read all of Patch’s Key Bridge collapse coverage here.

Four tugboats and a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat escorted the Dali out of the Port of Baltimore on Monday. The Dali traveled under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which temporarily halted its traffic in advance as a precaution. The ship is on its way to Norfolk Virginia for repairs.

The 984-foot container ship had been in Baltimore since March 26 when it lost power and crashed into the Key Bridge, killing six road workers and costing over 1,100 port jobs.

In April, Baltimore filed a case in federal court seeking to hold the cargo ship’s owner fully liable for the bridge collapse.

Both the city and county of Baltimore have hired law firms to represent the jurisdictions in the legal ramifications of the disaster. The FBI is also investigating potential wrongdoing.

Ten of the Dali’s crew members were recently cleared to leave the U.S., WJZ reported Monday. WJZ said the remaining 11 crewmates, who are officers and higher-ranking members, will stay in Baltimore temporarily during ongoing litigation, WJZ reported.

The crew is from India and Sri Lanka.

The clean-up started March 30 and required nearly 1,600 workers at its height.

The first of three temporary alternate channels for shallow-draft vessels opened on April 2. Recreational boats were allowed to return on May 9.

On May 13, controlled explosives freed the Dali from a 10-million-pound Key Bridge segment atop its bow.

All ships have been able to return to the port using a 400-foot-wide, 50-foot-deep channel since May 20. That’s when crews refloated and relocated the Dali after it was grounded for 55 days.

Crews on June 4 removed the last large hunk of bridge wreckage blocking the Patapsco River. They later conducted surveys and recovered smaller debris before reopening the full channel on June 10.

The May 20 partial channel reopening beat the state’s initial target of May 31, but the June 10 full reopening missed that goal slightly.

Commerce leaders think port traffic will rebound quickly, but they warned that the trucking industry will suffer until the bridge is rebuilt.

Officials estimated that the new crossing will open by fall 2028 and cost up to $1.9 billion. President Joe Biden (D) promised that the federal government would pay for the entire project.

The Maryland Transportation Authority announced on May 31 that it’s now accepting contractor proposals for the bridge rebuild. Proposals are due Monday. The project team will be selected by late summer.


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