Stranded Sailors Await Rescue After Bridge Demolition in Baltimore

Stranded Sailors Await Rescue After Bridge Demolition in Baltimore

On Monday, a controlled explosion shook the Dali, a 948ft (289m) container ship, while nearly two dozen sailors remained below deck in the ship's hull. The blast sent debris from Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge into Maryland's Patapsco River, seven weeks after the bridge collapsed, resulting in six deaths and leaving the Dali stranded.

This demolition is seen as a potential turning point in a prolonged process that has kept the 21 crew members—20 Indians and one Sri Lankan—trapped on board, isolated from their homes. Despite the ship likely being re-floated soon, the timeline for the crew’s return home remains uncertain.

The incident occurred at the start of a 27-day journey from Baltimore to Sri Lanka when the ship struck the bridge, causing tons of steel and cement to fall into the river. A preliminary NTSB report indicated that two electrical blackouts had disabled equipment, with the ship losing power twice in the 10 hours leading up to the crash.

Due to visa restrictions, lack of required shore passes, and ongoing investigations by the NTSB and FBI, the crew has been unable to disembark. Even during the controlled demolition, the crew stayed below deck with a fire crew on standby. US Coast Guard Admiral Shannon Gilreath emphasized the crew’s essential role in keeping the ship operational and safe.

The sailors have faced significant isolation, exacerbated by the FBI's confiscation of their mobile phones as part of the investigation. Joshua Messick, executive director of the Baltimore International Seafarers' Center, highlighted the crew’s inability to conduct online banking, pay bills, or communicate with their families, leading to emotional distress.

The Singapore Maritime Officers' Union and the Singapore Organisation of Seamen have called for the return of the crew's phones, noting the negative impact on morale and the unnecessary hardship caused by the loss of communication. Dave Heindel, president of the Seafarers International Union, urged authorities to respect the crew's rights and welfare, emphasizing the importance of mobile devices for personal and financial matters.

Andrew Middleton, who runs the Apostleship of Sea in Baltimore, described his recent visit to the sailors, noting their good spirits despite ongoing concerns. He mentioned efforts to provide emotional support through conversation and humor.

For now, the crew has been provided with temporary mobile phones and SIM cards, though these lack data capabilities. Community groups have sent care packages, including Indian snacks and handmade quilts. Religious representatives have also been offering services and support.

Synergy Marine, the ship’s management company, has been attentive to the crew’s needs, including sending catered Indian food and checking on their well-being. However, a clear timeline for their disembarkation remains elusive.

Once the ship is moved out of the shipping channel, it is expected that small groups of sailors might receive shore passes, though their movements will be heavily restricted and require escorts. Messick is working to organize activities that cater to the crew's interests, such as arranging a cricket match or finding contemplative nature spots for relaxation.

Ultimately, the goal is to help the sailors experience some freedom and respite after being confined on board for an extended period.

The comments posted here are not from Cnews Live. Kindly refrain from using derogatory, personal, or obscene words in your comments.