A tug pushing a fuel barge has become the first ship to pass the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore after a temporary channel was opened.

Authorities said the 148-gt tug Crystal Coast (built 1983) made it through at 15:00 local time on Monday.

The bridge was destroyed last Tuesday when it was struck by the AP Moller-Maersk-chartered 9,962-teu container ship Dali (built 2015).

The tug is owned by Dann Marine Towing of Maryland.

The Key Bridge Response Unified Command said the barge is used to supply jet fuel to the Department of Defense and was transiting to Dover Air Force Base.

The captain of the port established the temporary alternative channel near Sollers Point for commercially essential vessels.

The passage is on the northeast side of the main ship channel.

“This action is part of a phased approach to opening the main federal channel,” the Unified Command added.

The channel will be limited for transit at the discretion of the port captain during daylight hours only.

It has a depth of 11 feet (3.4 metres) and vertical clearance of 96 feet.

Bigger ships remain stuck

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

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.

The Unified Command is working to establish a second temporary alternate channel on the southwest side of the main channel to allow for vessels with an anticipated draught restriction of 15 to 16 feet.

Two crane barges of 650 tonnes and 330 tonnes are working at the scene.

Wreckage will continue to be lifted and transferred to a barge as daylight allows.

A 230-tonne land-based crane will offload and process the wreckage at Tradepoint Atlantic, from where it will be taken to a disposal site.

A 2,000-yard (1,830-metre) safety zone around the Francis Scott Key Bridge is intended to protect personnel, vessels and the marine environment.

The Unified Command includes the Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland Transportation Authority and police, plus ship manager Synergy Marine’s representative Witt O’Brien.

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