The cause of the disaster that left the container ship ‘Dali’ adrift and colliding with a bridge pillar in the port of Baltimore on the morning of Tuesday, March 26, remains speculative. Insiders predict that the accident will significantly impact the port’s operations.

Singapore’s port authorities have reported that the ‘Dali’ underwent two inspections in 2023, confirming its compliance with certificates related to “structural integrity” and “the operation of ship equipment.” In June 2023, a defective fuel pressure gauge was repaired, according to the Singapore port authorities. Investigators from the inspection service of Singapore’s Ministry of Transport are now en route to Baltimore to assist the U.S. Coast Guard.

The U.S. Coast Guard decided to cease the active search for survivors on the evening of Tuesday, March 26. “We do not believe we will find those individuals alive,” stated Coast Guard Division Admiral Shannon Gilreath. The Coast Guard has prioritized the safety of its divers, who face hazardous currents and debris in the water. The operation will enter “a new phase” on Wednesday, March 27, focusing on locating the bodies of the missing individuals.

In seeking potential causes for the collision, former pilot Herman Croenen suggests that visible black smoke prior to the incident could indicate an attempt to slow the ship by reversing the engines. The deployment of the anchor might have been a last-ditch effort to alter the ship’s trajectory.

Croenen dismisses any connection between this incident and the ‘Dali’s’ 2016 collision in the Antwerp Deurganckdok, emphasizing that ships encounter accidents throughout their service life.

The impact on the Baltimore port is expected to be significant, with disruptions to normal traffic potentially lasting months. The ‘Dali’ is lodged on the concrete base of the bridge, tilting forward, which may indicate frontal damage and water ingress, further complicating salvage operations. Alternative traffic may be diverted to ports such as Norfolk or Philadelphia.

Christian Roeloffs, co-founder and CEO of Container xChange, anticipates significant impacts on automotive and crude oil goods flows. Baltimore, a key port for various imports and exports, may see container traffic diverted to larger ports, increasing congestion and delays elsewhere.

The Port of Antwerp-Bruges maintains a steady connection with Baltimore, a major port for vehicle imports and exports via ro-ro ships. The Swedish-Norwegian operator Wallenius Wilhelmsen, which has a terminal behind the collapsed bridge, is part of rotations between Europe and other continents, including Baltimore as a regular stop.

Maersk, in a statement, indicated that the cause of the disaster remains unknown, maintaining close communication with authorities. The ‘Dali,’ owned by Grace Ocean and operated by the Synergy Group, chartered by Maersk, was not carrying Maersk crew or personnel at the time of the accident. Damage to the bridge has temporarily halted access to the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore, prompting Maersk to bypass Baltimore in its services until deemed safe.

President Joe Biden addressed the accident on Tuesday afternoon, March 26, 2024, calling it a terrible accident and confirming that the bridge’s reconstruction costs would be fully covered by the federal government. He expressed confidence in congressional support and announced plans to visit Baltimore “as soon as possible” without specifying a date.