A temporary lane for vessels to traverse an area blocked by Baltimore’s collapsed bridge will not help deep-draught traffic enter or exit the port, leaving the timeline for merchant shipping to transit the area unclear.

The unified command responding to the incident said on Sunday that an alternative channel will be opened in the vicinity of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which collapsed last week when it was struck by the AP Moller-Maersk-chartered, 9,962-teu container ship Dali (built 2015).

The lane will have a depth of 11 feet (3.4 metres), 264 feet of horizontal clearance and a vertical clearance of 96 feet, according to the command made up of the US Coast Guard and other federal, state and local authorities and marine response company Witt O’Brien’s, which is representing Dali manager Synergy Marine.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Olinda Romero told TradeWinds on Monday that it is unclear when deeper-draught vessels will be able to transit the Patapsco River as crews work to clear debris from the bridge collapse.

She said that, with the focus on salvage, the temporary channel will be used primarily by vessels participating in the response.

Tracking data from VesselsValue shows that at least seven merchant vessels, not including the Dali, with a draught of more than 3.4 metres are upriver from the collapsed bridge.

But the temporary channel is part of a phased effort to reopen the waterway.

“This will mark an important first step along the road to reopening the port of Baltimore,” Captain David O’Connell, the federal on-scene coordinator for the bridge response, said. “By opening this alternate route, we will support the flow of marine traffic into Baltimore.”

The channel will be marked by lighted aids to navigation.

Over the weekend, demolition crews were working to cut portions of the north side of the collapsed bridge’s truss with two crane barges on the scene.

A 230-tonne land-based crane will offload and process the wreckage at the nearby Tradepoint Atlantic port facility.

Romero said it is unclear what work will be completed on Monday, as salvage crews face inclement weather.