Baltimore bridge collapse: All-Indian crew of cargo ship sent out mayday call before collision

The cargo ship Dali, which collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, had an all-Indian crew of 22, and they have been praised by US President Joe Biden for sending out a “mayday” call (distress call) just before the collision.

Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed on Tuesday following the collision.
Six people presumed dead after bridge collapse in Baltimore. Photo Courtesy: Videgrab of Baltimore bridge collapse

“Personnel onboard the ship were able to alert the Maryland Department of Transportation that they had lost control of their vessel. As a result, local authorities were able to close the bridge to traffic before the bridge was struck, which undoubtedly saved lives,” the US president said from the White House.

Six people, who went missing following the collapse of a bridge in the US city of Baltimore after it was hit by a ship, are presumed dead, media reports said. However, authorities have not named the identities of the six people.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed on Tuesday following the collision. Maryland Governor Wes Moore told reporters on Tuesday evening, as quoted by CNN, that the end of the rescue operation was a “really heartbreaking conclusion to a challenging day”.

According to reports, several vehicles were crossing the bridge when the vessel hit the support. Officials told BBC that the ship suffered a “power issue” and issued a distress call moments before the crash.

Boats and helicopters were engaged in the rescue and search operation following the crash. Two others were rescued from the water with the condition of one of the persons being critical.

Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath of the US Coast Guard was quoted as saying by BBC that the remaining missing men were presumed dead based on the temperature of the waters they had fallen in and the length of time they have been under water. These eight people were reportedly part of a construction crew.

Singapore authorities working with US agencies on ship collision probe

The Singapore-flagged container ship Dali, which is owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd, was on its way to Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo.

A Singapore government press release issued yesterday said: “The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) confirms the incident of a Singapore-registered vessel’s collision with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, on 26 March 2024 at about 1:30pm (Singapore Time). The vessel, Dali, is a 95,000 GT container vessel operating with 22 crew on-board at the time of the incident. MPA is in contact with the US Coast Guard and the ship management company to provide the necessary assistance. As the flag state, MPA will provide full cooperation to the US Coast Guard in its investigations. MPA will also be investigating the incident.”

Another press release from the Singapore government said: “Investigators from the Transport Safety Investigation Bureau and MPA are travelling to Baltimore, Maryland.”

This press release added: “The ship management company, Synergy Marine Pte Ltd, reported to MPA that just prior to the incident, the vessel, Dali, had experienced momentary loss of propulsion. As a result, it was unable to maintain the desired heading and collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

“The vessel was reported to have dropped its anchors as part of the vessel’s emergency procedures prior to its impact with the bridge. The vessel was under pilotage at the time of the incident. The vessel is currently holding onto its position at the site of the collision and is in a stable condition. All 22 crew members are safe and accounted for. Search and rescue efforts led by US authorities are ongoing.”

Synergy Marine Group said in a statement: “We confirm the safety of all crew members and two pilots aboard ‘Dali’, with one minor injury reported. The injured crew member has been treated and discharged from hospital. Unfortunately the incident also impacted those who were on the Francis Scott Key Bridge at the time, and based on reports from the Baltimore fire chief and ABC News and other media outlets there have so far been two rescued from the water, including one person with serious injuries.”

Joe Biden says the bridge will be reconstructed

Reacting to the bridge collapse tragedy, President Biden said that priority should be given to the rescue and relief operation. “I’ve directed my Administration to ensure every federal resource is available to assist search and rescue efforts and response to this terrible incident,” Biden posted on X.

Speaking on the reconstruction of the bridge, he said: “The Francis Scott Key Bridge is vital to our economy, and it’s vital to our quality of life. That’s why I’ve directed my team to work with Maryland and move heaven and earth to reopen the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as humanly possible.”