With a backdrop cleared of a container ship for the first time in eight weeks, Gov. Wes Moore on Tuesday thanked the Unified Command and other officials for a quick and decisive response to the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. But the mission is far from complete, he said.

“I will not be satisfied until I can look over this same site and see the Francis Scott Key Bridge standing again. That’s mission completion,” Moore said.

Salvage crews began moving the Dali from the wreckage of the bridge over the weekend. The massive container ship docked at the Port of Baltimore on Monday nearly two months after it set out from the Seagirt Marine Terminal, bound for Sri Lanka. The voyage ended after just a couple of miles when the ship lost power and struck one of the bridge’s support piers, bringing most of the structure down in seconds.

Moore was flanked by two tugboat captains from McAllister Towing and Moran Towing who helped to guide the Dali back to port yesterday. He praised them, the Unified Command, state and federal officials as well as the wider community for an “unprecedented response” to such a tragedy.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The removal of the Dali from the wreckage puts the Port of Baltimore, one of the largest economic engines in Maryland, at the cusp of a return to full operations.

Shipping containers on the cargo ship Dali, which toppled the Francis Scott Key bridge when it crashed into it in March, are seen on April 25, 2024. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

More than 500 commercials vessels have used temporary channels opened around the wreckage to access the port since March 26, said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath of the Unified Command. The main, 50-foot-deep federal shipping channel will reopen to 24/7 ship traffic later today, he said, but at just over half of its original width.

The channel will be fully restored to 700 feet width by the end of May, Gilreath said. From there, the salvage crews will focus on removing steel outside the federal channel and hope to finish sometime in June.

Moving the “vessel that was omnipresent,” that collapsed an iconic and essential piece of Baltimore’s infrastructure and became itself a fixture, in eight weeks was a monumental achievement, Moore said.

The wreckage of the Key Bridge collapse, with the Domino Sugar factory in the foreground, is seen from the Baltimore World Trade Center on Saturday, April 6, 2024. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Moore highlighted four marquee accomplishments since the bridge fell: Unified Command recovered the bodies of six construction workers repairing potholes when the Dali struck and returned them to their families; they removed more than 10,000 tons of mangled steel and refloated the ship with no major injuries; state lawmakers passed bipartisan legislation to support port workers; and officials in Washington laid the groundwork to ensure the federal government covers the full cost of replacing the bridge.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“These achievements are not preordained,” Moore said. “Change does not just happen, change is made to happen. And this team made it happen.”

But there’s more to do. Support for the families of the six victims won’t stop, Moore stressed — roughly 20 people across different agencies are working with them to address needs, he said.

The tallest task on the horizon is rebuilding the bridge, which state officials are projecting could take roughly four years and close to $2 billion. Moore conceded Tuesday morning that the timeline was “aggressive,” but that it was one his administration planned on hitting.

The Baltimore skyline is seen behind wreckage from the Key Bridge collapse on Tuesday, April 16, 2024.
The Baltimore skyline is seen behind wreckage from the Key Bridge collapse on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen have been vocal about securing a 100% funding commitment from the federal government to pay for the rebuild. Moore stressed Tuesday morning this will help the process move as quickly as possible and that taxpayers “are going to be made whole” by recouping the cost.

“We’ve said from the very start that those who need to be held accountable for what happened on March 26 need to be held accountable for it in every way, shape and form,” Moore said. Lawsuits over liability for the disaster will likely drag on for years; how previous bridge disasters shook out indicate that repaying the government for fronted costs could be a tall order.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Both the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the wreck. The NTSB released its preliminary report last week, saying there were two separate “mechanically distinct” power outages that it was investigating further. Moore called the findings “troubling.”

The status of the FBI’s criminal probe is unclear.

A spokesperson for Synergy Marine, the company that manages the Dali and its crew for its owner, on Monday said the crew will remain onboard for the “foreseeable future” while investigations continue. But Tuesday morning, Moore said the crew will be allowed time off the ship at some point.

Daniel Zawodny covers transportation for the The Baltimore Banner as a corps member with Report For America. He is a Baltimore area native and graduated with his master's degree in journalism from American University in 2021. He is bilingual in English and Spanish and previously covered immigration issues.

More From The Banner