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Port of Virginia offers help to Baltimore port blocked by bridge collapse

Port of Virginia

Posted on March 27, 2024

Virginia officials scrambled on Tuesday to help neighboring Maryland with maritime commerce disrupted by the early morning collapse of a bridge in Baltimore in the main shipping channel to the city’s busy port.

Aubrey Layne, chairman of the board of directors at the Port of Virginia, said the port in Hampton Roads would not be directly affected by the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge over the Patapsco River after it was struck by a freight ship early on Tuesday.

But Layne, a former state transportation and finance secretary, said the Virginia port would assist the Port of Baltimore and shipping companies to divert cargo.

“The bottom line is we’ll work with them to help them through this,” he said. “We have the capacity.”

Gov. Glenn Youngkin posted on X Tuesday morning that he has spoken with Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and offered Virginia’s assistance following the bridge collapse in Baltimore.

Layne said the Virginia port would work with two major railroad companies, Norfolk Southern and CSX Corp., to divert shipped goods that cannot reach the Port of Baltimore, such as imported automobiles.

“To an extent, that gives us options to get cargo up to the Northeast,” he said.

The incident highlights an advantage that the Port of Virginia holds in Hampton Roads, where no overhead bridges obstruct shipping in the deep water harbor that is home to the U.S. Navy and major shipyards. Vehicle traffic crosses the harbor through the Hampton Roads Tunnel and the Monitor-Merrimac tunnel.

“When you have a port where you have an overhead obstruction, you run those risks,” Layne said. “In Virginia, you can hit a tunnel, but you don’t close a shipping lane.”

Shortly before 7 a.m. on Feb. 24, 1977, the Marine Floridian, a 612-foot tanker that had just unloaded chemicals at the Allied Chemical plant in Hopewell, slammed into the Benjamin Harrison Bridge, causing a 241-foot section of the bridge to fall on top of the ship.

In February 1977, a 612-foot tanker, the Marine Floridian, lost control of its rudder and rammed the Benjamin Harrison Bridge, which crosses over the James River between Charles City County and Prince George County near Hopewell.

Four vehicles were on the bridge before the collision, but drivers got two of them off before impact. The other two – a pickup truck and a panel truck – went into the James River but the occupants escaped before the trucks fell from the bridge.

The bridge, completed in 1966, was closed for repairs for 20 months.

Maryland’s Key Bridge is part of Interstate 695, a high-speed beltway around Batlmore. The bridge lies between Dundalk and Glen Burnie.


The Baltimore Sun reported that an estimated seven vehicles fell into the river as the bridge collapsed. The collapse does not directly affect traffic to and from Virginia on Interstate 95.

At Virginia’s state Capitol on Tuesday morning, Democratic leaders held a news conference about the state budget. Del. Luke Torian, D-Prince William, chair of the House Appropriations Committee and a minister, started the gathering by calling for a moment of silence for those affected in Maryland.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., was among the Virginia office holders who expressed concerns on social media.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-11th, who represents parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties, also expressed solidarity with Virginia’s neighbors to the north.

The Baltimore Sun reported that the cargo ship Dali, carrying a Singapore flag, had arrived from Norfolk.

Citing Vessel Finder, a ship tracking website, it reported that the ship left from the Port of Baltimore around 1 a.m.


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