Container ship causes Baltimore bridge to collapse, many missing

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by Emily Atkins

A container ship crashed into a highway bridge in Maryland just outside the Port of Baltimore last night, causing it to collapse.

CCTV screen grab of bridge collapse.

At 1:40 am the local fire department received a call about the incident, and by the time they had arrived 10 minutes later, the bridge was destroyed. YouTube video from a nearby security camera shows an almost immediate collapse as the ship plows into one of the bridge’s pilons.

The ship that hit the bridge is Singaporean flagged container ship Dali, chartered to Maersk. It had just left the port of Baltimore bound for Colombo, Sri Lanka. A pilot was reported to be aboard. The ship appears to be stuck in the bridge wreckage.

As of 6:45 am EDT on March 26, authorities reported having pulled two people from the water. A search is underway for up to 20 other victims and cars that were seen plunging into the water. It is believed that seven or more people were on the bridge when it collapsed.

The Francis Scott Key bridge spanned the Patapsco River, carrying Interstate 695. It was 1.6 miles long. The route is travelled by vessels heading to and from the Port of Baltimore. The bridge was opened on March 23, 1977.

Screengrab from WBAL-TV 11 Baltimore coverage of the Key Bridge collapse.

In 2023 the port’s terminals handled a record 52.3 million tons of foreign cargo, worth US$80 billion. The previous record was 44.2 million tons in 2019. The port is the busiest in the U.S. for ro-ro cargo, and handled 847,158 cars and light trucks in 2023, the 13th consecutive year it has led all other U.S. ports in vehicle cargo.

The Patapsco River is the only route into and out of the port. At least one Wallenius Wilhelmsen vessel carrier was visible in the port according to vesselfinder.com. Contingency operational plans for the port are not yet known.

The governor has declared a state of emergency.

Search and rescue operations continue. According to Baltimore fire chief James Wallace, all available local and federal search and rescue assets have been deployed to the area. These include underwater teams and unmanned vessels searching for people in the water.

Story will be updated.