Why is the Dali ship crew still stuck on board in the Baltimore Harbor?

Two weeks after the Dali cargo ship crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. The Key Bridge collapsed early morning on March 26, killing six people who had been working on the bridge.

There are 21 crew members on board, including pilots, mechanics, divers and other crew members, who will remain on the vessel until the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the US Coast Guard (USCG) complete their investigations.

Why is the crew still on the boat?

On April 1, BBC reported that authorities said there were no plans to disembark the Dali’s crew and it is unlikely any plan will be put in place unless the vessel is moved or taken out of the water. The Coast Guard said on March 29 that moving the ship is a second priority to reopening the Baltimore port and the shipping channel.

The BBC also reported that “even in normal circumstances, disembarking crews of foreign nationals from ships in U.S. ports requires significant paperwork. Twenty of the crew are citizens of India and one is from Sri Lanka.

Twenty of DALI's crew members are Indian nationals and one is from Sri Lanka. They need visas and valid shore passes, as well as escorts to get from the ship to the terminal gate.

A spokesperson for the Maryland Port Authority's response team said the crew is continuing to "maintain the current status of the vessel" while the NTSB and Coast Guard continue their investigation.

“The crew is busy with their normal duties on the vessel, as well as assisting the NTSB and Coast Guard investigators on board,” Dali management spokesman, William Marks, told the Washington Post

Andrew Middleton, director of the Catholic mission Apostleship of the Sea, which provides welfare for the crew, said the crew must continue to monitor the mechanical and electrical systems, as well as the condition of the pumps.

"All those mechanisms that make the ship function require human intervention," he explained.

When can crew members expect to leave the boat?

Chirag Bahri, a former seafarer who now works as international operations manager for the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), told the BBC that it might be months before the crew can return home.

"Maybe after a few weeks, some of the junior ranks may be repatriated home," he said. - "But it may be that the senior ranks are still required to complete the formal investigation and are kept in the U.S."

Why can't the ship leave Baltimore Harbour?

The NTSB and the Coast Guard are still investigating whether it was a power outage on the cargo ship that caused it to crash into the Key Bridge. A deficiency in Dali’s system was recorded when the ship was last inspected in June — categorized as having to do with “propulsion and auxiliary machinery,” with no other specifics — but a follow-up inspection concluded that the problem had been addressed.

The Baltimore Sun reported on 4 April that there were 11 cargo ships trapped behind the Key Bridge collapse, not including the Dali. The vessels can’t move until the debris from the bridge gets cleaned up.

The crew is covered by an International Transport Workers’ Federation contract through the Singapore Maritime Officers Union, the Washington Post reported. But it’s up to American authorities to determine when the crew will be allowed to leave Baltimore.

ITF inspector Steve Trousdale told the Washington Post he anticipates that the crew, who come from developing countries with low employment, might be anxious about being held up in the port during the investigation.

“They are on very tight schedules,” he said. “They get in, they load or they unload, and they get out again.”

Is the Dali crew OK?

The crew was mostly uninjured following the bridge collapse. Synergy, the Singapore-based company that owns Dali, reported on March 27 that one crew member had to be taken off the ship to be treated for minor injuries following the crash, but has since returned.

A Key Bridge representative told Futurism that the crew was “prepared for a 35-day voyage” so they had “ample supplies on board to support them.” The spokesperson added that there was “an open line of communication with the crew” and “they appear in good spirits and health.”

Middleton told NPR that his organization put together a care package of SIM cards, Wi-Fi hotspots, DVDs and snacks to send to the crew. He said if the crew were to run out of food and water, the ship line would get more.

“We worry that the stress and the trauma of the incident and that, as time goes on, might start to weigh a little more heavily on them,” Middleton said. “They were mentally prepared for 28 days, you know, the only difference now being is they're within eyeshot of dry land, and they can't get to it.”


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