Email details Dali timeline after crews perform controlled demolition Saturday

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Crews are expected to use controlled explosives on Saturday to remove the massive piece of the Key Bridge that is atop the Dali cargo ship and free the vessel that has been stranded in the Patapsco River since it struck and collapsed the span on March 26.

Officials did not say how soon after the controlled demolition of the bridge section that the Dali would be refloated and returned to the Port of Baltimore, but The Baltimore Sun has obtained an email that indicates it is expected back “on or about May 14.”

Salvage crews have been preparing explosive charges for the demolition, which will break the portion of the bridge atop the Dali into smaller pieces that can be hauled away, according to Key Bridge Unified Command.

“The safest and swiftest method to remove the bridge piece from on top of the M/V Dali is by precision cuts made with small charges,” according to a Unified Command statement Thursday. “This is an industry-standard tool in controlled demolition that will break the span into smaller pieces, which will allow the work of refloating the vessel and removing it from the federal channel.”

The port’s deepest channel has been blocked since the bridge collapse.

The Unified Command released photos showing close-ups of the portion of the bridge, called Section 4, that landed on the Dali’s bow after the vessel struck one of the bridge’s support pillars. The span immediately tumbled into the Patapsco River, killing six construction workers who were on the bridge to repair potholes.

The email obtained by The Sun was sent to attorneys of “claimants,” including the city of Baltimore, against the shipping companies that own and manage the Dali. It says they will be allowed to come onto the vessel for inspections they requested — but only after the National Transportation Safety Board, which plans to be aboard on Tuesday and Wednesday, disembarks.

The email says claimants will be permitted aboard the ship, which will be moored at the Seagirt Marine Terminal, starting May 20. It asks the claimants to limit the number of those boarding to experts and attorneys and to specify the area of the ship they want to inspect and the amount of time they need.

“We will have to stagger attendances to accommodate the various claimants,” the email said.

“In addition, salvage work at the bow of the vessel may restrict access to the bow,” according to the email from William “Bill” R. Bennett III, who represents Grace Ocean Private Ltd., the owner of the Dali, and Synergy Marine Pte Ltd., its management company.

Baltimore City has filed a claim against the Dali owner, Grace Ocean Ltd, and its manager, Synergy Marine Pte Ltd., saying it should be held fully liable for the collapse. Additionally, an Essex-based publisher has filed suit, saying the incident has caused it and other companies a loss of business.

The NTSB, along with the FBI and other agencies, is investigating the collapse of the bridge.

The removal of the bridge wreckage from the Dali will allow the return of the vessel and its crew to the port they left more than six weeks ago, bound for Sri Lanka.

While accustomed to being away from land for lengthy spans of time, for the Dali crew, the last three weeks have been particularly hard because the FBI confiscated their cellphones and laptops as part of its investigation, according to groups who assist seafarers when their vessels are berthed at the port.

“They cooperated fully with the investigation and unlocked their phones, and now they’re being withheld from them,” said the Rev. Joshua Messick, executive director of the Baltimore International Seafarers Center. “Imagine having your phone taken away, imagine how crippling that would be.”

While the crew has replacement phones and can again communicate with loved ones, they don’t have the photos of their families and friends that bring them comfort during long stretches away from home, Messick said.

Nor do they have access to banking and other necessary information that they had stored on their devices, he said.

Asked when the crew members’ phones and laptops might be returned, the Baltimore office of the FBI declined to comment. A spokesman for Synergy, Darrell Wilson, said he was unaware that crew members lacked access to their information.

Another seafarer assistance group in Baltimore, Apostleship of the Sea, was able to board the Dali earlier this month. The Apostleship’s director, Andy Middleton, said Bishop Adam Parker of the Baltimore Archdiocese celebrated a Mass for several of the crewmen who are Catholic.

Middleton said they spent several hours with about 14 crewmembers, chatting and asking if they needed anything. He was able to deliver care packages with T-shirts and other items that a woman in Minnesota had sent him.

“They seemed to be touched,” Middleton said.

Messick said he is staying in touch with the crew about what they want to do in the Baltimore area once the vessel returns to port, and if they can arrange shore leave.

Like other seafarers he’s helped, many want to see the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

And one, Messick said, “just wants to go to a park and spend time in nature.”

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