Dali leaves Baltimore for the first time since the bridge collapse and heads to Virginia

BALTIMORE — The ship that launched several federal investigations and destroyed an iconic Baltimore structure has left the city.

Three months after his crash on the Francis Scott Key Bridge and dropped the span into the Patapsco River, the 984-foot container ship Dali began to slowly sail under its own power – assisted by four tugs — just before 8:30 a.m. Monday in Norfolk, Virginia. After a 16 to 20 hour journey, the Dali was scheduled to dock early Tuesday to unload all of its containers and undergo more extensive repairs.

With crushed containers still resting on the bow and a tarp covering a hole in the hull, the ship left the Port of Baltimore’s Seagirt Marine Terminal, then turned right to follow the Federal Shipping Channel. Maritime tracking data indicated the ship moved at about 9 knots (10 mph) for most of its transit during the day Monday.

Traffic on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge near Annapolis was backed up for about 20 minutes at 11 a.m. as the ship approached the bridge. To avoid distracting drivers, the Maryland Transportation Authority sometimes stops traffic on the bridge when high-interest vessels are traveling underneath.

About 100 people gathered at Sandy Point State Park, in the shadow of the Bay Bridge, to watch the damaged Dali — still carrying fragments of the Key Bridge — navigate safely beneath the span that connects central Maryland to the east coast. The crowd, some watching through binoculars, became so quiet as the ship approached that birds could be heard chirping. As the Dali safely crossed the bridge, observers shouted, “Thread the needle” and “Clear the goal posts.”

“Did you notice how quiet everyone was?” said Paula Schnabel of St. Margaret’s. “It was almost solemn.”

The Dali had been in Baltimore since it lost power in the early hours of March 26, colliding with a Key Bridge pillar and collapsing the structure, killing six construction workers. Debris from the disaster blocked the Baltimore Ship Canal for more than two months, and the bridge’s destruction eliminated one of only three harbor crossings, slowing car and truck traffic in the area.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the FBI are both investigating the calamity. As the Dali sailed Monday, the NTSB released a rare update to its investigation, noting that it focuses on a small electrical component of a circuit that connects two wires, known as a “terminal block.” The NTSB took the component to a laboratory for further testing, it said in a statement, also noting that it had conducted interviews with all 21 crew members aboard the ship at the time of the incident.

Driven by the collapse, the The Coast Guard also launched a commission of inquiry to assess potential risks to other bridges in the United States

Last month, crews used explosives to cut out a piece of the Key Bridge that sat atop the Dali, then refloated the ship. Five tugs moved the vessel to the Seagirt Marine Terminal, where some of the…

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