Amid the wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, labor and nonprofit officials scrambled Tuesday to make arrangements on land for international crews stranded aboard cargo ships in the Port of Baltimore.

Dali’s crew of 22 had notified authorities of a mayday early Tuesday morning following a power issue, a move that Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said enabled transportation officials to stop traffic traveling over the bridge and save lives. All crew members, including two pilots, were accounted for after the cargo ship slammed into the bridge and caused it to collapse.

(Read full coverage of Key Bridge collapse)

No injuries were reported on board, according to Synergy Marine Group, the technical manager for the Singapore cargo ship. The company said that it’s unclear what caused the collision and that owners and managers are cooperating with government agencies. Chesapeake Bay pilots typically help cargo vessels navigate the waterways that would otherwise be unfamiliar to an international crew.

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Andrew Middleton rushed to turn on his television Tuesday morning and recognized the Dali on the screen. Middleton and other volunteers for the Apostleship of the Sea seafarers center, had recently driven the Dali’s crew around on land to stores like Target and Walmart so they could stock up on necessities ahead of a particularly long voyage.

The Dundalk resident realized that what sounded like a rumble of sustained thunder in the early hours of the morning must have come from the crash. He rushed to email several members of crew and continued swapping messages with them as the day went on.

“I made sure they knew we were here for anything they needed,” Middleton said. “We’d make every effort to get what they need to them.”

Wreckage of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge is seen from a media staging area in Dundalk on March 26, 2024. The bridge collapsed early Tuesday morning when a cargo ship collided with it. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

The International Transport Workers’ Federation was trying to establish communication Tuesday with union members crewing the Dali, many of whom are from India, said mid-Atlantic representative Barbara Shipley. Most cargo ships are equipped with Wi-Fi, but it was not clear whether it was functioning after the bridge collapse.

While emergency responders and U.S. regulators investigate circumstances of the crash, the union is concerned with any labor issues on the vessel. Shipley said a union inspector boarded the Dali in December and found everything to be in order. The organization was unaware of any labor concerns or complaints prior to the crash, she said.

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Out of the 27 inspections documented for the Dali since 2015, two have found deficiencies, according to an online database maintained by Electronic Quality Shipping Information System. In 2016, the ship was found to have hull damage, and in June an inspection found problems with “propulsion and auxiliary machinery.”

The U.S. Coast Guard last inspected the vessel in September and found no deficiencies, according to the database.

Once crew members are permitted to leave the Dali, the shipping company will place them in hotels and pay for meals, though some seafarers may need help securing visas. The union is also in contact with its affiliate in Singapore, Shipley said.

The Dali’s crew are not the only international seafarers in need of assistance. With shipping traffic in and out of the port suspended until further notice, an unknown number of seafarers from across the world awaited instruction on board their ships.

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The Baltimore International Seafarers’ Center, one of several local nonprofits that help seafarers passing through the port to get what they need on land, said it was prepared to help seafarers who are stranded in port.

Executive Director Josh Messick said representatives were visiting each ship docked Tuesday in the Port of Baltimore to offer crew members transportation ashore, pastoral care, emotional support and access to a safe place on land for rest and refreshment.

“This is horrific, and it’s going to impact things globally,” Messick said.

One obstacle Middleton is starting to thinking about could be an issue with getting stranded seafarers a shore pass issued by federal border protection officials. The pass is typically good for 29 days after which time the seafarer must return to international waters, a task that could prove problematic if the twisted metal that once formed Key Bridge blocks exit from the Port of Baltimore.

Middleton wasn’t too worried. The center had a lot of practice helping stranded seafarers during the pandemic and said his organization stood ready to do it again.

Baltimore Banner reporter Alissa Zhu and Liz Bowie contributed to this report.

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