The shipping channel on the Patapsco River will be closed for quite some time, prompting a likely worldwide impact. Photo: James Ronayne

Key Bridge Collapse Impacts Local Commerce, International Shipping

The Key Bridge collapsing into the Patapsco River sent shockwaves through the Chesapeake Bay region—beginning with the horror of how many people may have been on the bridge when it happened.

Tragically, a work crew doing overnight concrete deck repairs was on the bridge at the time and six out of the eight-person crew are presumed dead. Two bodies have been recovered, but the rest are believed to be entombed in the bridge wreckage. When the grim search by emergency crews is complete, attention will turn to the significant impact this disaster will have on local and inter-state transportation, commerce and shipping traffic worldwide.

With the Key Bridge now gone, so is a key driving route to the Port of Baltimore and an important connector for neighbors in the area.

Since the Patapsco River is impassable for ships at this time and investigators are collecting evidence, the Port of Baltimore is closed to vessel traffic indefinitely. Inbound ships have made rerouting plans. The Maryland Port Administration said in a statement, “At this time we do not know how long vessel traffic will be suspended. As soon as that is determined we will provide an update. Until then please keep those involved in your prayers.”

Annapolis admiralty attorney Todd Lochner says it would take a large effort to reopen the port. “We’d have to get the current remnants of the bridge removed, including those underwater elements. There are plenty of salvage companies that would be more than happy to bid on such a project…” but salvage would be a priority only after the search for victims is complete and environmental factors are addressed.

Further delaying the port reopening, Lochner points out, “Much like the Ever Forward grounding situation recently here on the Bay, there will lots of dispute among cargo interest about the cost of removing the bridge from the ship.”

Gov. Moore declared a State of Emergency for Maryland quickly following the collapse, and there’s no doubt an economic impact will be felt within the state and well beyond it.

“There certainly will be effects both in the United States and the East Coast generally on the supply chain. I would not be surprised if we don’t already have bookings increasing and rates increasing for both rail and trucking, said Lochner.”

Expressing support for those involved in the disaster, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce acknowledged that the loss of the Key Bridge will have a significant effect on local business in addition to the likely ripple effect on international shipping.

“While the focus remains on the human impacts, the Francis Scott Key Bridge is a critical transportation artery for our state,” the Chamber of Commerce said. “Its extended closure will inevitably disrupt commercial activities and supply chains. Understanding the monumental task ahead to recover from this tragedy and restore this vital transportation link, we urge all residents and businesses to exercise patience and make the necessary long-term adjustments to their daily routines, travel and operations.”