Baltimore ship to be moved, but no freedom for 20 Indians on board

1 month ago

After being stuck for two months after hitting a bridge in Baltimore, US, the Dali, a cargo ship bound for Sri Lanka, will be taken to a nearby terminal. However, there is no immediate relief in sight for its 21-member crew, including 20 Indians, as a probe continues. An additional problem is that their visas have expired.

Dali ship collapse

Twenty Indians and a Sri Lankan are stuck on the Dali since the March 26 accident. (Photo: Getty Images)

The cargo ship Dali, which has been stuck for nearly two months after hitting the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, US, is scheduled to be refloated on Monday and finally moved to a Baltimore marine terminal. However, for the 21 crew members, including the 20 Indians, the ordeal is far from over. They will have to remain confined to the Dali for an uncertain period of time.

The crippled cargo ship had blocked the approach to the busy Baltimore port and its removal has been made possible after a large section of the collapsed bridge was removed by controlled explosions.

The US Unified Command, overseeing the response, said that the refloating and transport are meticulously planned to ensure control of the vessel throughout the process. The refloat window utilises the high tide for optimal transit, aiming for a departure around 5 am on Monday, according to a press release from Key Bridge Response 2024.

“The refloat and transit sequence is deliberately designed to ensure all response personnel around the M/V Dali maintain control of the vessel, from refloat, transit to, and berthing at a local marine terminal,” the press release stated.

NO RELIEF LIKELY SOON FOR INDIAN CREW ON THE DALI

The 21 crew members, 20 Indians and a Sri Lankan, of the Dali have been stuck on board since the accident on March 26. Even when the ship is escorted back to port, they might have to stay on board, the ship's management company told CNN.

Barbara Shipley, from the Transport Workers’ Federation, said there was no plan for the crew's next steps. Their visas had expired while they were trapped on the ship, and the union was waiting for guidance from immigration authorities, reported CNN.

maritime regulations require some staff members to remain on board, but Shipley hopes officials will prioritise deciding on which crew members can go home and which need to stay.

On March 26, the container vessel hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge and has since been stranded in the Patapsco River. The collision prompted an investigation, during which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) confiscated the crew's mobile phones.

The Dali, a 984-foot cargo ship, was bound for Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Six construction workers who went missing after the Francis Scott Key Bridge in US's Baltimore city collapsed are presumed dead.

The ship contained thousands of tonnes of steel and cement. After the hit, the cement and steel fell into the Patapsco River and left the ship stranded.

THE ELABORATE OPERATION TO MOVE BALTIMORE SHIP

The massive cargo ship Dali needs the high tide to move safely. To take advantage of this, officials plan to begin preparations as early as 2 am on Monday, when the tide will be at its peak.

First, they'll detach some of the anchors and mooring lines currently securing the ship, with nearby tugboats ready to assist if needed.

Second, they'll need to remove some or all of the 1.25 million gallons of water that were strategically added to the ship for stability.

This is to compensate for the weight reduction caused by the large section removed by controlled explosions on May 13.

Finally, divers from Unified Command will meticulously inspect the left side of the Dali, ensuring there are no obstructions that could hinder the ship's movement, according to the press release.

Once free of its current position, up to five tugboats will tow and push the Dali about two and a half miles to the Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore. It will take an estimated three hours to transport the 984-foot, 106,000-ton ship. Earlier this week, a survey vessel confirmed a clear path for the Dali to safely transit to the marine terminal.

The bridge was 8,636 feet (2,632 m) long and carried an estimated 11.5 million vehicles annually.

MV Dali is a Neopanamax container ship built in 2015 by Hyundai Heavy Industries, South Korea.

INDIAN CREW CAN'T PAY BILLS, LEFT HOBBLED WITHOUT INTERNET ACCESS

Though their mobile phones had been seized, the crew of the Dali were provided alternative cellphones.

However, the phones don't have data access, and they can't even pay the bills of their families back home in India.

"They can't do any online banking. They can't pay their bills at home. They don't have any of their data or anyone's contact information, so they're really isolated right now. They just can't reach out to the folks they need to, or even look at pictures of their children before they go to sleep. It's really a sad situation," Joshua Messick, executive director of the Baltimore Seafarers' Center, a non-profit organisation that works to protect the rights of mariners, was quoted as saying earlier by the BBC.

The crew, including the 20 Indians, will remain on board until the probe into the crash is completed, reported ABC News.

They have been interviewed and their documents and voyage data recorder extracts have been collected as part of the investigation.

It isn't sure when the probe will be over and when the 20 Indians will be able to meet their loved ones. The additional hurdle is that their visas have expired while they remained trapped in the crippled cargo ship. So, even as the Dali is moved to the terminal and the path of the Baltimore port is cleared, it might be some time before the Indians can move out of the ship.

Published By:

Girish Kumar Anshul

Published On:

May 20, 2024

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